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Global

Potential large-scale effects

Medium term (5-20 years)

Managed resource

Consistent with poverty reduction

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affor

Forests and floods: drowning in fiction or thriving on facts?

Every year large-scale floods in the Asian lowlands affect the personal and economic fortunes of millions of people. To many people involved in developing disaster-reduction strategies and flood-mitigation management, it appears that the intensity of floods has increased in the region in recent decades. To a large extent, conventional wisdom — which is sometimes more fiction than fact — about the benefits of forests has clouded the perspectives of decision-makers, leading to an over-emphasis on reforestation and forest protection at the expense of more holistic watershed and river-basin management. The conventional wisdom is that forests act as giant 'sponges', soaking up water during heavy rainfall and releasing freshwater slowly when it is most needed, during the dry months of the year. The reality is far more complex. Although forested watersheds are exceptionally stable hydrological systems, the complexity of environmental factors should cause us to refrain from overselling the virtues of forests and from relying on simple solutions (e.g., removing people currently living in mountainous watersheds, imposing logging bans, or implementing massive reforestation programmes). Rather, the complexity of these processes should prompt us to reassess our current knowledge of the relationship between forests and water, and reconsider conventional responses to one of the most serious disaster threats in the Asia-Pacific region — i.e., large-scale floods. This booklet aims to brief policy-makers, development agencies and the media, and so constructively contribute to the development of sound watershed and river-basin management, and flood-mitigation policies, for the region.

http://www.cifor.cgiar.org/publications/pdf files/Books/BCIFORO 501.pdf

FAO and CIFOR, 2005: Forests and floods: drowning in fiction or thriving on facts? Bogor, Indonesia, CIFOR and FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Forest Perspectives No. 2, 38 pp.

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