Sukkur is fortunate in having more forests than any other District of Pakistan. Prior to the British conquest, annual inundations throughout the province were practically unchecked in their flow and forest growth covered all the land where the water reached. People cut down the timber, made temporary settlements, and tilled the soil wherever they chose. Certain rive rain forests were reserved by the Mirs (local rulers) for the chase, and walled in with mud walls. These existed in many places and were strictly protected from interference or land transfers among the people by severe laws. After 1843, these game preserves, or shikargahs as they were called, became the nuclei of the present forests of Sindh.
During 1847 a Major Scott was appointed the first Forest Ranger in Sindh. He was succeeded by two botanists, Dr Stocks and Mr. Dalzell, and by two Rangers, Captain Hamilton and Captain Crawford. These last two Rangers demarcated all the shikargahs by erecting boundary markers.
During the last forty years of the nineteenth century, a forest department was gradually built up until it formed a regular Part of the administration of the country’s resources. The first Conservator of Forests, Dr Schlick, was appointed in 01 1. He organized the department and divided the then Sindh Circle into three divisions these were later reorganized into four divisions, namely, Sukkur, Nawabshah, Hyderabad, and Jherruk, each having fifteen rangers.
Forest management from 1860 to 1895 does not appear to have been based on any plan of exploitation and reproduction. Forests were exploited as a convenient resource to meet the local demand of the population and the larger imperialist demands of the old Indus Flotilla Company. In earlier days, the method by which forest lands and resources were disposed of had been according to social rank or need through the share system, whereby the representatives of the rulers who owned various sectors of a town or a District agreed among themselves on the proportion of revenue due to each ruler.
The system of selling coupes (areas set aside for felling in particular years) by tender or by auction was introduced in 1901.
The first attempt at systematic management was made between 1875 and 1895. The main methods were rotational cutting and sustained yields. Even those attempts were sporadic, and for the most part forests continued to be worked in areas within easy reach of the railway and the river, with a view to stripping as much revenue as possible and without any regard for improvement or conservation for the future. More systematic management began in 1895. A provisional plan providing for clear-felling in equal and adjacent areas, with a rotation of thirty years for babul (Acacia Arabica) and ten years for kandi (Prosopis spicigera) and Lai (Tamarix indica), was adopted in that year and continued in force for six years
Mr. A.C. Robinson prepared the first regular plan during 1990-91 and 1902-3; it remained in force until 19 17-18. It was on the same lines as those already sanctioned by the Government for Hyderabad, Naushehro, and Jherruk as the forests of the latter two Divisions were organized by the same officer, Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson’s plan was later revised by Mr. Navanis. Shikarpur Division was constituted under Government Resolution No. 4555 dated 7 August 1917 by subdivision of the original Sukkur Charge and the addition of one range taken from the old Larkana Division. The original working plan for Larkana Division was sanctioned by the Government in Resolution No. 5567 dated 17 August 1903, and that of Sukkur Division in Government Resolution No. 4777 of 12 May 1908.
In the Navanis plan, certain changes were introduced to correct the defects of the previous plan. It remained in force for almost twenty years and served its main purpose inasmuch as the bulk of the over-mature and deteriorating trees was removed.
Revision of Navanis’ plan became necessary as the scattered felling under the plan rendered exploitation expensive and the execution and supervision of work difficult. Keeping these points in view, Navanis’ plan was revised by C.B. Abichandani, whose work was so exhaustive and comprehensive that it has remained a cornerstone of all working plans till today. The plan drawn up by Abichandani came into force in 1936-7 for Sukkur Division, 1937-8 for Shikarpur Division, and 1938-9 for Larkana Division. This plan, in addition to the rive rain forests of these divisions, also included the inland forests of all the three Divisions. The plan covered a period of twenty years. The salient features of the working plan, which, in the event, only remained in force till 1942-3, were that the system of clear felling was adopted, a rotation of thirty years was fixed with reservation for timber, field was regulated by area, a conversion period of fifteen years was fixed to convert the scattered exploitation operations into one concentrated operation, and regeneration was to be obtained by natural methods. The prescriptions of Abichandani’s plan could not be followed rigidly on account of the exigencies of the Second World War. Between 1942 and 1945 heavy over- felling had to be carried out to meet the requirements of the defense installations in Quetta Region and the Middle East countries. Several periodic working schemes were subsequently prepared, although the basic principles of Abichandani’s plan were followed throughout. The first scheme was prepared by Wadhwani in 1948-9 and a working scheme for the forests of Sukkur and Shikarpur Divisions was prepared from the data collected by Wadhwani which remained effective until 1952-3. It was observed that the schemes developed defects, so they were revised by Ansari in 1953-4, the scheme prepared by Ansari, again following Abichandani. After that fresh stocking was done by Ahsan Ahmed between 1951-8 and his felling program was followed for the next twenty years. Thereafter, yearly felling programmers were framed keeping in view the provisions of the Abichandani plan and the subsequent schemes prepared by Ansari and Ahsan Ahmed.
The construction of barrages and dams on the Indus and its tributaries affected the rive rain forests of this region adversely. A critical study of the previous plans and the subsequent schemes revealed that certain basic principles of forest management had been neglected and as such it was deemed necessary to prepare a new plan for these forests which would take into consideration the modern trend towards intensive forest management. Mr. A.R. Arain was assigned to prepare the revised working plan for the rive rain forests of Sukkur Forest Division and the rive rain and inland Forest Division of Shikarpur. The area of forests covered by the above plan was 130,549 acres comprising forty forests. According to this latest plan, the forests would be managed on the basis of multipurpose utility such as production of timber and firewood, provision of pastoral areas for grazers, creation of national parks and game reserves, and improvement of growing stock.
In order to achieve these objectives, five working circles were constituted, covering inundation, rehabilitation, a forestation, protection, and plantation, to look after the 5,587,821 hectares of forest in Sukkur District.