Tree ambassador squeals over wood poaching

NATIONAL tree ambassador Never Bonde has petitioned various government departments over rampant deforestation and illegal firewood trading occurring in Bulawayo’s residential areas. Bonde, who runs Isandla Esihle, which fights to preserve natural vegetation, has petitioned the Forestry Commission, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the police to arrest wood poachers who have invaded surrounding forests since the lockdown was launched on March 30.

BY SILAS NKALA

“Poaching of firewood, the illegal business of charcoal transportation and selling has been rampant of late, meaning that deforestation is rampant where these people are chopping trees,” he said. “We have written a letter engaging the Forestry Commission, EMA through the police’s assistance to launch an operation aimed at curbing this wood poaching and illegal charcoal trading.”

In a letter dated May 26 addressed to the government institutions, Bonde said: “According to the research we have done before and during this lockdown around Bulawayo, we have noticed with great concern the rise in the illegal sale of charcoal and firewood at different shopping centres, bus termini and households. Informed by this background, it is hereby noted that we haven’t done enough to curb the scourge against trees. Therefore, the office of the tree ambassador will welcome the provision of vehicles from stakeholders concerned to engage in the fight against firewood poaching and selling, charcoal selling, illegal transportation of firewood and charcoal.”

Bonde also expressed concern over the paltry $50 paid for timber logging permits, saying the fee was too negligible to discourage deforestation.

“The licences are given by the Forestry Commission and we urge them to be realistic in the charge,” he said.

Bulawayo and Umguza Forestry Commission conservationist Bekithemba Ngwenya confirmed receiving the letter from Bonde, but said he was yet to consult his bosses on the way forward.

“I have received the letter, but I am yet to consult on it. There are also some issues which I need clarification from Bonde and after verifying I will come back to you,” Ngwenya said.

Bulawayo EMA manager Descent Ndlovu referred the matter to the Forestry Commission.

“Forestry Commission is the responsible authority whose mandate involves the licensing, selling and movement of firewood. This is regulated by the Forestry Act,” he said.

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