|A publication of the Asian Development Bank||No. 1 June 2008|
Cover stories •
new publications •
in focus •
from the field •
Technical Efficiency Saves Trees
Despite a variety of forest conservation methods—legal prohibitions, replanting, certification, and incentives for good forest management, taxes on forest products and upgraded forest property rights—the world is still losing its forest cover at an alarming rate.
An Asian Development Bank study offers a new option: improving technical efficiency.
A study of sawmills in Sri Lanka shows that improved efficiencies in wood processing decreases the number of logs felled and, therefore, decreases pressure on natural forests. The findings show that with improved efficiency—measured in terms of increased output for the same input of logs, or vice versa—raw timber materials or wood processing inputs can be reduced by as much as 28% while producing the same number of salable logs.
Thus, based on the reality that legal and illegal logging will continue despite protests from local and international conservation movements, the study concludes that technological improvements can result in forest conservation.
Sri Lanka was an apt choice for the study because the country’s wood processing industry is highly inefficient. The country, a significant contributor to global biodiversity, saw an alarming fall in its closed canopy natural forest cover from 80% at the beginning of the 20th century to 18% in 1992.
The potential for this efficiency model to offer a new way of conserving Asia’s rapidly depleting tropical forests is strong. It also has implications for a number of critical global environmental policy interests, including the decline in natural habitat and biodiversity, carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change, watershed management and erosion control, livelihoods of indigenous people and the rural poor, and general protection of aesthetic values.
If the technical efficiency model were to be applied from tree planting up to the end use point of furniture industries and timber construction, and therefore across the full forestry cycle, the conservation impacts could be much higher. Applied globally, it would have “profound consequences,” says the study. •
|© 2013 Asian Development Bank|