Members of the Parliamentary Committee of Natural Resources have blamed the scary rate of deforestation on flaws in the Forestry Act and have challenged Government to have the Act amended in the current Parliament sitting.
The assertion was made by the Parliamentary Committee’s Chairperson and MP for Chitipa South constituency, Welani Chilenga, at the end of three days’ education tour through the areas gravely affected by the massive cutting down of trees in the country’s forests.
The tour, which was organized by Christian Aid Malawi, an international organization concerned with the worrisome rate at which the country’s natural resources are being depleted, was designed to expose the legislators to the extent of deforestation in the country, and hopefully through the same, entice them to strategize pro-reforestation and anti deforestation legislations.
“Deforestation is behind all the climate change woes and we have fruitlessly talked and lamented about the Forest Amendment Bill,” said Chilenga who further issued an ultimatum to Government to have the Forestry Amendment Bill tabled in the current sitting of Parliament failure of which would push the law makers to have the Bill tabled as Private Members Bill in the next sitting.
“We are now asking for the last time and if Government still doesn’t listen to our call we will be forced to use the alternative route of tabling the Bill as a Private Members Bill in the February sitting,” he challenged fellow parliamentarians to “hold hands and deal with this monster called deforestation.”
The legislators blamed, among the flaws, leniency of penalties on deforestation culprits and inadequate enforcement of security around the country’s forest reserves a situation which, according to the MPs is, makes penetration into the forests easy for the culprits.
Among the toured areas was Dzalanyama Forest Reserve, which according to a report from the Forestry Department, will be completely depleted in the next ten years if no timely intervention is implemented.
Conceding the weaknesses in the Act in a separate interview, Deputy Director for Central Region zone in the Department of Forestry, Stella Gama, disclosed that Government was in the process of engaging international consultants to have the Act reviewed and updated to address the current environment needs, deforestation included.
She disclosed that the latest forestry management plan which ought to be reviewed and updated every five years, and under which the Forestry Act falls, was last developed in 1995 and the current Act was developed and last reviewed in 1997.