BY MTHANDAZO NYONI/SILAS NKALA
THE Society for the Protection and Preservation of Trees and the Environment in Zimbabwe (SPPTEZ), has petitioned government over rampant deforestation taking place in the country, calling for stiffer penalties for offenders.
In a petition submitted to various government departments and ministries yesterday, SPPTEZ said the country was becoming vulnerable to climate-related problems due to the decimation of the environment.
It advocated for the offenders to be charged up to $10 000 for individuals and up to $100 000 for corporates and a jail sentence of up to six months.
“A lot of destructive activities are happening every day; illegal logging — firewood to compensate for electricity problems — illegal mining, deforestation, veld fires and all kinds of pollution and many more,” the petition read.
“Some people just desecrate nature for their worldly desires and/or greed, most of the time just to make money. Some are doing it out of ignorance and lack of education and stricter laws that can act as deterrents to this self-destructive behaviour are required.”
To mitigate these challenges, SPPTEZ said schools need to start tree growing programmes and the curricular should incorporate environmental management, climate change studies.
“Enact stiffer national laws, by-laws and penalties that need to be fully implemented as a deterrent to offenders. Current police penalties of $30 for cutting down trees are a joke and would not deter offenders. Offenders should be charged up to $10 000 for individuals and up to $100 000 for corporates and a jail sentence of up to six months if they cannot pay the fine,” reads the petition.
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The organisation said government should make it mandatory for tobacco farmers to designate land for gumtree plantations and ensure inspectors check compliance before they are given a certificate to sell their produce.
SPPTEZ said the Finance ministry should allocate $2 million to every province and match cent for a cent for provinces that can raise more money for the 2019 National Tree Planting Day.
“Make national tree planting day a compulsory event for every Zimbabwean to plant a tree and learn from Ethiopia where 350 million trees were planted in one day by everyone in the country.
“In the Philippines for students to receive a graduation certificate, they have to plant a certain number of trees. We, as a group, challenge the government to aim to plant a 100 million trees on National Tree Planting Day this year,” it said.
The lobby group called for a ban on plastic bags and plastic straws in the country.
Zimbabwe is experiencing recurrent droughts due to climate change. Deforestion is said to be contributory factor.