Failure to promulgate regulations and statutory instruments to deal with illegal trading in firewood has resulted in an alarming rise in deforestation this year, a Forestry Commission official has revealed.
Darlington Duwa, the chief executive officer of the Forestry Commission, said delays in promulgating four legal instruments to curb deforestation has seen Zimbabwe losing 330 000 hectares of forest land per annum.
He told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism that erratic power supplies also negatively affected sustainable forest management.
“Two years ago we proposed the promulgation of the Tobacco Wood Energy Regulations, Plantation Timber Industry Regulations, Firewood Trading Regulations and the Movement of Timber Regulations,” said Duwa.
“However, delays in the promulgation of these regulations are partly responsible for the continued deforestation rate which rose to 330 000 hectares per annum.”
He said his organisation wanted the legal instruments put into effect as soon as possible to control the illegal trading of firewood and timber and to ensure that tobacco growers and veld fires did not cause deforestation.
Duwa said the loss of 330 000ha had led to the reduction of stocks of mature timber for feeding into processing plants and the proliferation of firewood vendors in many urban areas.
“Erratic power supplies have negatively affected sustainable forest management. It is hoped that the process of finalising these regulations will be expedited in order to reduce utilisation pressure on forest resources and in order to ensure that the forests remain in perpetuity for future generations,” he said.
He said if these measures were enforced, fees, permits and fines would be payable, resulting in the broadening of the Forestry Commission revenue base to help finance its operations.
Duwa said illegal forest settlers also posed great challenges threatening the existence of protected forests.
For example, he said, Matabeleland was home to almost 10 000 settlers together with their livestock, which presented serious problems for forest management.
The Forestry Commission is a parastatal under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management and is the principal government advisor on forestry-related matters.