Trends, causes, and actors of deforestation and forest degradation in the Kalasha valleys of Pakistan: A multi-level analysis

  • Author / Creator
    Zeb, Alam
  • Prevention of forest loss is a high priority in Pakistan, where deforestation has been linked to catastrophic flooding in 1992 and 2010. Under the United Nation's REDD+ program, new incentive schemes are developed to encourage forest protection and reforestation, while implementing social safeguards for forest-dependent indigenous groups. The objective of this study is to support Pakistan's REDD+ readiness activities that affect the Kalasha, a unique indigenous people that are nominated for enhanced protection of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. I aim to identify actors and power structures that have caused deforestation in the past, and recommend policy improvements that protect forests as well as the Kalasha's culture and traditional livelihoods. This thesis combines a regional remote sensing analysis, a valley-level socioeconomic analysis for three valleys inhabited by the Kalasha people, and empirical household-level research to identify trends, causes, and actors of deforestation, forest degradation and cropland expansion. The first study contribute a long-term analysis of deforestation and forest degradation for Pakistan’s Chitral district, using Landsat images and quantified forest cover changes in a pre- and post-logging ban periods. Forest cover changes were further evaluated in the context of access and enforcement measured through distances to administrative boundaries, human activities, and topography. The results show that despite a complete ban on commercial green felling instituted in 1993 deforestation and forest degradation continued at a high rate. However, cropland in the study area decreased by 12% after logging ban. The analysis showed that deforestation in the pre-ban period occurred in valuable high elevation conifer forests, while during the post-ban period deforestation shifted to low elevation oak forests near human habitation. High elevation conifer forests instead suffered from forest degradation during the post-ban period, presumably due to illegal selective cutting and legal high-grading through selective cutting of the most valuable trees. This study recommend to maintain the logging ban, but additional policies are necessary, namely forest management strategies for high-elevation conifer forests that reverse the effects of high-grading, for example reforestation activities with suitable planting stock, as well as better enforcement of protection of a specific set of timber species found in these forest ecosystems.In the second study, the remote-sensing based historical analysis was further interpreted in the context of a socioeconomic analysis and expert surveys regarding the causes of deforestation and forest degradation. The results suggest that government actors have significant power to influence land use practices in the region, although their policy instruments may not have had the intended effects. Near human habitation, forest loss actually increased after the ban. Results from expert interviews, however, revealed contradictory perceptions regarding the actors responsible for forest loss. Both local residents and government officials point to the other side as primarily responsible, while rationalizing their own contribution. In household surveys, fuelwood use was identified as the primary pressure on forest resources. However, our remote sensing data and price analysis of most valuable species suggest that following the 1993 logging ban, government employees appear to be the most likely actors of forest degradation. We recommend policy changes towards more balanced power structure in joint forest management committees. In addition, alternative heating methods and REDD+ based compensation schemes to support the most affected households of the indigenous Kalasha. In the third study, I selected 123 households on the forest margins for a detailed socio-economic survey to study factors related to household-level decision making with respect to forest clearing. The analysis was based on a contrast of 75 households that cleared nearby forested land with 48 households that did not expand. I found that families with more members, more livestock but fewer physical and financial assets were more likely to clear forested land for agricultural expansion. Families with more members employed off-farm were less likely involved in forest clearing. Social factors, such as education, ethnicity, and forest ownership were not significantly associated with clearing of forests. I conclude that programs focusing on off-farm income generation opportunities targeted towards the poorest households would be the most effective policy intervention.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
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