Forests offer extensive advantages to human life, contributing to its well being and prosperity in a variety of ways. Being an essential source of wood stock, they help in countering poverty, ensuring food security, and providing satisfactory livelihoods. Additionally, they offer favorable mid-term green growth opportunities and contribute to the environment in the long term by ensuring clean air, water, biodiversity, and alleviation of climate change (Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 ).
Unfortunately, the rate of deforestation has increased rapidly in the past decade, as Pakistan’s forest area decreased from 2.46% in 2005 to 1.90% in 2015, owing to the growing needs of the growing population (Pakistan – forest area (% of land area) 2015). However, according to the Global Forest Resources Assessment, this rate has recently reduced with an improvement in forest management and increased awareness among the general public. Even so, there is still a need for the development and reinforcement of these practices. The need for more trees for the purpose of mitigating the environmental challenges that have spurred up in the recent years is most effectively fulfilled through a technique introduced by Dr. Akira Miyawiki and later imitated by Shubhendu Sharma.
Under this method, the soil is first thoroughly examined; it may be touched, felt, and even tasted to spot what vital properties it lacks. If the soil is compact, some local biomass is mixed into it, making it absorbent enough for the water to seep in. Next, in order to nourish the soil, nutrient producing microbes are also added to it. Following the structure of an actual forest, the ratio of each layer of plants and trees is decided i.e. shrub layer, sub-tree layer, tree layer, and canopy layer (Mantri 2017 ). Finally, saplings of 50 to 100 intermediate and late successional, native species of trees are planted close together and then looked after for a period of two years, after which the forest becomes independent (Urban Forest Overview n.d.). However, in the event that the caretaker is unable to or loses interest in nurturing the freshly planted forest, it will still grow, but at a slower rate (Mantri 2017 ).
With the Miyawaki method, the minimum area required for the plantation of these man-made forests is 1000 square meters, with the base cost at Rs 60,000 – 70,000. It is significant that indigenous types of plants are made use of; however, finding native species remains a challenge as utilizing foreign plants and trees has become a trend today (Mantri 2017 ). If allowed to grow undisturbed, the forest has the ability to imitate a 100-year-old natural forest within a decade (Urban Forest Overview n.d.). This notion was proved in Japan and Southeast Asia where forests were built within 15-20 years and 40-50 years respectively through ecological regeneration of forests, following the natural forestry system (Miyawaki 1999). Similarly, upon comparing the Miyawaki technique with two other forest restoration methods tested in Mediterranean Europe, it was identified that the growth of trees was considerably faster on the Miyawaki plots (Schirone, Salis and Vessella 2011).
Thus, while the conventional processes of restoring forests are usually lengthy and complicated as forests take time to grow and mature, the Miyawiki method is more efficient and effective (Science for Enrironment Policy 2011). The aforementioned fact has considerable importance because in a world where industry and urbanization are advancing with rapid pace, waiting a hundred years for the forests to grow is a very prolonged period of time (Miyawaki 1999).
The Miyawaki method was tested in Sardinia where more than 20 species were planted in its North. Upon surveying the site after 11 years, the researchers found out that despite the overall high mortality rate, a lot of plants had survived in contrast to the previous reforestation efforts that resulted in failure. Upon comparing this method with the traditional ones, it was clear that the Miyawaki method had the potential for better results; the trees developed more rapidly and once planted, they did not need additional maintenance either (Science for Enrironment Policy 2011). The latter was also observed in the restoration of rainforests in South East Asia in 1991 (Miyawaki 1999).
However, the method had to be modified to suit the Sardinian climate, which is different from Japan and South America on account of lesser rainfall in the area. Additionally, various organic materials were also mixed into the native soil (Science for Enrironment Policy 2011). The aforementioned idea was seconded by another research concluding that the Miyawaki method possesses potential to work efficiently and effectively in the Mediterranean environment where water deficiency exists in the summer (Schirone, Salis and Vessella 2011).
Miyawaki (1999) also concluded that this method, being similar to the system of natural forests, was the most reliable to mix and plant native species. This result was reached during an experimental regeneration project in South America, where local species and pioneer species, characterized by rapid growth, were mixed intentionally to facilitate fast development of the trees. A similar method of mixed and dense planting was also practiced in Chile. While regenerating forests in the area was previously considered extremely tough due to dry summer air and overgrazing, it was concluded that restoring indigenous forests was, in fact, possible if enough care was taken in the initial years after planting (Miyawaki 1999).
The Miyawaki method was also made use of in Kaniyampoondi, Coimbatore where 5000 saplings were planted in 2016. It took only eight months to for the impact brought by the forest to become obvious in the form of biodiversity as various types of birds and insects embraced the forest as their home (Mantri 2017 ). This technique was also used in Brazil in an attempt to restore the Amazonian tropical rain forest. While the victimized area was at first regarded as a wasteland, the Miyawaki method has shown significant results. It took only three years for the trees to become 6 to 12 meters tall, with some dominant species even reaching the height of 15 meters (Brazilian Experimental Project in Tropical Forest Regeneration n.d.).
Shubhendu Sharma, while talking about his personal experience with growing a forest, describes some environmental benefits that were evident soon enough after his forest started to grow. Within a period of two years, Sharma noticed an increase in the species of birds from seven to seventeen. The trees also aided in recharging the aquifer to the level it used to be at and conserving groundwater tables. Sharma explained that apart from these advantages, greenery in cities also helps in improving air quality, increasing biodiversity, and reducing heat-island effect. What makes these indigenous forests more valuable is the fact that they require no maintenance whereas urban landscaping, on the other hand, is heavily dependent on resources.
The Miyawaki method was later inherited by Shahzad Qureshi of Karachi, Pakistan. Once again, it took only two years for the saplings planted to develop into 15 to 20 feet tall trees. The forest is spread over an area of 400 acres and consists of 1200 trees of various species (S. Ali, Pakistan’s first urban forest reaches greater heights 2017). Following this event, there has been a noticeable increase in the biodiversity of the area as different types of birds and insects can now be spotted in the forest. Karachi, being a city with the most severe rate of deforestation, has been a victim of fatal problems such as heat waves. However, with the use of the Miyawaki technique, many of the trees lost can be restored and the negative effects of tree culling countered.
This technique is such that planting and maintaining forests can be done with ease and little prior knowledge by almost anyone. Thus, private firms, and even individuals, can conveniently make use of this and contribute to the environment around them. Support for this notion is found in the study by (Minckler 1980) where he mentions that people like teachers, doctors, businessmen, lawyers, and even citizens who simply enjoyed outdoors owned 59% of the potentially productive forest lands in the United States.
Alas, holding a forest cover of only 5.36% of its landmass, Pakistan is rightly considered as a forest poor country. It compares unfavorably with countries like India, China, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka; all of which hold more than 10% of their land covered with forests. Moreover, while the world average of per capita forest area is 1 hectare, Pakistan’s per capita forest area is of only 0.33 hectare (Forests and Biodiversity Data Report n.d.). Hence, rapid regeneration of forests using the Miyawaki method is vital for Pakistan. Being a technique that is practical and simple, Pakistan can make use of it in order to restore its forests for obvious advantages.
Despite the desperate need of reforestation in Pakistan, sufficient research has not been done on the usefulness and methodology of this method. Gaps remain that ought to be filled such as adapting the technique according to the climatic conditions in the country; incorporating factors such as aridity on account of low precipitation, soil deficiency etc. Hence, the following study aims to fill in these gaps left by the previous researches, concentrating on the application of the Miyawaki technique in Pakistan.
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