Firewood poaching riles environmentalists

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BY SILAS NKALA
RAMPANT firewood poaching, driven by the country’s increased power outages, has riled conservationist group, Isandla Esihle/Ruwoko Rwakanaka, which has called on authorities to intervene to stop the forestry plunder.

The organisation, led by the National Tree ambassador Never Bonde, aired its concerns in a petition to the Minister of Environment Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu  and copied to the ministry’s permanent secretary, Environment Management Agency (Ema), Forestry Commission and Allied Timbers Company.

The concern comes as Zesa Holdings recently increased load shedding due to depressed generation at Hwange and Harare thermal power stations including loss of one unit that produces 125 megawatts at Kariba Hydro-electric Power Station.

The intermittent power cuts have resulted in urban residents resorting to firewood as the readily available and affordable alternative energy source.

“In recent investigations carried out in different towns and cities, this office expresses concern after establishing that there are mushrooming firewood and charcoal dealers in towns and cities. During this exercise, it was established that most firewood dealers have no licences while some hold expired licences, hence the need to make a follow-up by relevant authorities to ensure renewal of these documents,” Bonde said.

He further noted that some illegal dealers produce and sell charcoal not classified in the licences issued.

“Firewood and charcoal find their way into towns where there is a ready market due to hiked electricity charges and other environmentally-friendly alternative energies. We call for a combined effort from stakeholders to carry out checks on firewood dealers in their areas, asking for and validating licences held. Further, the government must review the schedule of fines for perpetrators of environmental crimes and the registration application fees for dealers,” Bonde added, appealing to the Forestry Commission to increase its visibility in small towns where some of these crimes go unabated.

The minister is yet to respond to the issues raised.

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