Ninth Conference – 1968, India

India, January 3 – 27, 1968

The Ninth Conference was held during January 1968, the formal plenary and committee meetings being in New Delhi with field tours in the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and to the south in Madras and Kerala.

Apart from the host country, there were in attendance 63 delegates from 15 member countries and 2 representatives from FAO. In broad outline, the  conference took  the form of three fairly brief introductory, summary and concluding plenary sessions, a somewhat longer session when the Conference as Committee of the Whole dealt with the work of the technical committees, and two field trips.

At earlier conferences, much had been done through technical committees meeting separately and concurrently, so that it was only at the final plenary session that the full membership became aware of the decisions arrived at and the recommendations proposed. However, as noted above, at the 1968 Conference it was decided to handle committee activities (with the exception of those of the Forest Products Committee) in consecutive order through the full membership as the Committee of the Whole. This procedure worked admirably and is almost certain to be followed at future conferences if numbers permit. Committee sessions were held on (a) Forest Policy, (b) Silviculture, Management, and Economics, (c) Harvesting, Utilization, and Marketing, (d) Forest Protection, and (e) Recreation: amenity.

The discussion of each subject was organized and introduced by a chairman and panel of five members who based their presentation largely on the background papers that had been prepared well in advance of the meeting. From the ensuing discussion, a report was prepared for each subject incorporating any resolutions generally agreed to, and these reports were in turn presented by the chairmen for debate and adoption (in whole or in part) at a subsequent plenary session of the Conference (January 17 and 18).

Forest Policy (including Education and Services provided by Commonwealth Forestry)

  1. For those countries having a federal structure of government, a body should be established “to ensure increased co-ordination between the two levels of Government for forestry development.”
  2. Every effort should be made to ensure co-ordination of policy with respect to (a) the growing of forests and (b) the industrial use of the produce therefrom.
  3. There is an urgent need to assess more objectively the contribution of forestry and forest industries to economic and social progress and to analyze the economic consequences of “the management of forest resources from regeneration through harvesting and transport to utilization,” and to this end more attention should be paid to the training of personnel in forest economics and to the support of research in this field, including the establishment within the Commonwealth of at least one centre for Forestry Development Studies, probably at the Commonwealth Forestry Institute at Oxford. It is suggested that the functions of such a Centre “should include the study of the development strategy affecting forest land use, forest and forest industry establishment, the development of appropriate methodology for investment appraisal, the study of case histories in forestry and forest industry development in different countries, the training of forest economists, and the provision of advice on problems in forest development at the national, the project, and the forest levels.”
  4. The concept of the multiple use of forest land can only be effectively applied if its meaning is understood and generally accepted: it is suggested that the application of the concept “should ensure that the chosen use or combination of land uses results in the optimum long-term benefit to the community.”
  5. The objectives of forest management are commonly to increase the quantity and improve the quality of the timber produced; in order to ensure a high value return from this process, it is important that forestry education take the necessary steps to give all foresters a good understanding of the material that they are helping to produce, and also provide for the special training of some candidates in Wood Science, either by broadening curricula or by the bifurcation of educational streams.
  6. Recognizing that in all countries there is a general lack of public understanding of the place and value of forestry in the economy, it is suggested as one approach to this problem that courses in forestry or forest science be offered as optical subjects in general university education as well as in certain allied professional fields.
  7. Recognizing the importance of the documentary and abstracting services of the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau and the need to maintain these at a high standard, and also a general increase in costs and growth in scientific literature, it is strongly recommended that all Commonwealth countries increase their financial support for these services.

Silviculture, Management and Economics

  1. Recognizing that in the best interests of forest industry plantation forestry should aim for both maximum economic production of wood material and uniformity in the quality of this material, it is strongly urged that more be done on (a) species trials, (b) provenance trials, (c) tree breeding, and (d) forest site treatment by artificial means, and where feasible there be close co-operation and interchange of information on the results of such research.
  2. Where extensive plantation programs are under way, the countries involved should investigate “the extent, if any, of deterioration in health and growth rate in first and subsequent rotations, and where such deterioration has been established, carry out comprehensive research into the causes thereof with a view to finding remedial measures.”

Harvesting, Utilization and Marketing

  1. As harvesting represents a major cost factor in forestry which may be significantly affected by silvicultural and management practices, and as the net return on forestry operations is falling in many countries, it is proposed that “economic investigations be undertaken to assess the best combination of silvicultural practices, access and harvesting techniques to achieve the highest net return.”
  2. Based on experience in many countries, it was agreed that there should be an intensification of research on manufacturing processes and market possibilities in an attempt to solve the problem of “waste” in forestry, with particular reference to the by-products of harvesting operations and to “weed” species.
  3. Having in mind the heavy capital investment involved in modern industrialization, there is urgent need in forest industry as elsewhere for preinvestment feasibility studies of all factors that may affect the success of the enterprise. Furthermore, when such investment is undertaken in any country, government should be aware of possible economic and social benefits to the community of such investment in the devising of new trade and taxation policies.

Forest Protection

  1. In view of the trend in many countries to create large-scale plantations, resulting in many cases in extensive monocultures of exotic species, and associated with this the hazard from insect, fungal and other pathogens, there is need “(i) to give prior consideration to the creation of local organizations capable of detecting potentially dangerous pests and diseases at the earliest possible stage, ( ii ) to intensify research into the damage caused to forests by pathogen and insects, and their control, and (iii) to maintain and intensify quarantine measures.”

Recreation: Amenity

  1. In view of the increasing use of forests for recreational purposes and associated with this the need for wildlife management, and also the importance of tree growth in urban areas, it is recommended that in member countries (a) provision be made for the development of recreational and wildlife uses of the forest, and the training of personnel in wildlife management; (b) representative examples of indigenous flora and fauna be set aside in perpetuity as nature reserves; and (c) research and education be undertaken in the field of urban forestry.

Forest Products

Resolutions were presented to the Conference by the Forest Products Committee on timber seasoning, primary sawmilling, wood preservation, and forest products research and technology. It was suggested that at future conferences the interests represented by this Committee should be more closely associated with the main program, and that at the Tenth Conference full statements would be presented in the form of “world position papers” on such subjects as (a) Sawmilling, (b) Seasoning, (c) Preservation, (d) Timber Engineering, (e) Pulp and Paper, and (f) Panel Products.

The following comments by way of conclusion and summary provide the opportunity to record some reactions to the Conference and its associated activities.

First, for the Conference itself, there would seem to be a general consensus that this was well worthwhile, and because of some of the factors involved had certain values not necessarily found in larger, more highly organized international forestry meetings. Because of the relatively small numbers, it was possible to deal with the main business of the Conference by means of a Committee of the Whole, and because of the fairly broad representation, geographical and in terms of experience, there was in general a wide-ranging discussion of the more important topics whether administrative, technical, or financial in nature.

It was the view of members of the Canadian Delegation that the Commonwealth Forestry Conference should be continued with possibly some minor changes in organization and that it would be highly desirable from all points of view if, for such conferences in the future, Canada could include in its delegation representatives from at least some of the provincial forest services and forest-based industries.

Second, for the forestry situation in the host country, which must always be a matter of prime Interest and concern to the Conference members, it was apparent that lndia combined successful development in some areas with difficulties and potential problems in others. The excellent forestry traditions established in lndia by the British have been maintained since India’s independence, and are well illustrated by the development of silvicultural management in the indigenous forest and older plantations.

A major problem is the scarcity of land for forest production in relation to present and future demands for wood and the possibilities for industrial development. To illustrate this point by comparison with Canadian conditions, it may be noted that with 15 per cent of the world’s population, lndia has about 2 per cent of the world forest area, whereas Canada with less than one-half per cent of the world’s population has about 6 per cent of the world’s forest area. In India, 70 per cent of the annual cut is used for fuel, while in Canada only 7 per cent is used for this purpose. Canada’s cut of timber is roughly five times that of India.

Efforts on the part of forest authorities to deal with this problem of land shortage include (a) the promotion and extension of the Taungyi (agriculture cum forestry) system of land management, (b) the use of fast-growing short rotation (in some instances as little as 10-1 5 years) species to provide fuelwood and raw material for the viscose and other pulp-based industries, and (c) the suggestion that factors in addition to land capability and economic data be acceptable in reaching decisions with regard to the possible allocation of better quality land to forest reserves. Regarding the increasing use of exotics in monocultures on a large scale (b) above, there would appear to be need for much more action against possible insect pests and diseases, in the form of surveys and research, than is presently under way.

Third, of the country of India, its people and their ways, there are naturally many impressions, some of which must be rather superficial after only a few weeks’ visit. However, there could be no doubt of the outstanding hospitality of our Indian hosts, not only in their constant concern for one’s comfort and convenience, but in their friendliness and the personal welcome they had for delegates at official functions and in their homes.

Excerpt from: Ninth Commonwealth Forestry Conference | India, January, 1968

by J. W. B. Sisam, Dean, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, Canada

Published in the Forestry Chronicle, December 1968