BY SILAS NKALA
ENVIRONMENTALIST Never Bonde has petitioned government to order an end to the sale of firewood and charcoal in towns and cities, saying the practice could lead to deforestation.
Firewood business boomed at the onset of the cold weather as urbanites opted for the cheaper source of energy.
Urban areas have of late seen an increase in the number of people dealing in firewood and charcoal as residents seek to warm themselves due to the low temperatures experienced in the country during winter.
Bonde, who is also Tree Ambassador, petitioned Tourism minister Mangaliso Ndlovu, his permanent secretary Munesu Munodawafa, Allied Timbers, Forestry Commission and the Environmental Management Agency.
“This office has noted with great concern the rise in cases of firewood and charcoal poaching and selling in towns and cities as a negative impact to the environment,” Bonde said in the petition to Ndlovu last week.
“In a recent investigation carried out in different towns and cities, this office established that there is mushrooming of firewood and charcoal dealers.
“During this exercise, it was established that most firewood dealers either do not have licences or hold expired licences. Further, it was established that some illegal dealers produce and sell charcoal, which is not classified in any of the licences issued.”
He added: “Firewood and charcoal find their way into towns, where there is ready market due to hiked electricity charges, gas prices and weather changes.
“It is then against this background that we call for a combined effort from stakeholders such as Forestry Commission, Environmental Management Agency, police and councils to carry out checks on firewood dealers in their areas.”
He said government should review the schedule of fines for the offenders and fees for firewood licences, while urging the Forestry Commission to increase its visibility in small towns.
Bonde appealed to government to equip the Forestry Commission with the latest equipment for easy mobility and to detect such offences.
Ndlovu is yet to respond to the petition.
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