Managing Fuelwood Supply in Himalayan
5.1. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FOREST SECTOR IN MOUNTAIN AREAS
In recent years, planning in the forestry sector has evolved to focus on how forest
products (primarily, fuelwoo d and timber) can be utilized on a sustainable basis to
contribute to su stainable development (FAO, 1993; Shen and Contreras-Hermosilla
1995). This is even more important in mountain areas, which are environmentally
more vulnerable than the plains due to their fragile ecosystems. In addition, con-
tradictions may exist between long-term development goals and the short-term
necessities of the mountain population. Resolving this contradiction is a prerequisite
for establishing the long-term vision needed to achieve changes in mountain energy
systems along a sustainable path.
Sustainable de velopment in the mountain areas depends on the capacity to
develop woodfuel-based energy aiming at fulfilling the energy needs of mountain
communities and increasing productivity, without jeopardizing livelihoods or
depleting the forest resource base. An appropriate approach to accomplish this is
to value the environment and treat it as a central feature in wood-b ased energy
planning in the mountain areas. The choice between various forms of energy needs
to be assessed, and the value of environmental stocks and flows must be accounted
for, along with the role of forests as carbon sinks (Durning, 1993). The quality of life
and environm ental balance should be considered as important as economic growth.
In terms of fuelwood, the main concern is with resources that can be exploited for
short-term benefits, which ultimately may destroy the resource ba se. To prioritize
long-term benefits is difficult as most mountain communities lack other fuel cho ices.
Commercial fuels and renewable energy technologies are usually not available in
these areas and are not within easy reach. Even if availability of other options
increases, there is still the issue of low affordability among the communities. It is
therefore important to devise a mechanism of control over resources and decisions
on development paths which is kept in the hands of the mountain communities
themselves. The communities need to be given the power to influence the decisions
Bioenergy – Realizing the Potential
ß 2005 Dr Semida Silveira
Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.