Timber reserves face extinction: EMA

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ENVIRONMENTAL Management Agency (EMA) director-general Mutsa Chasi has warned that the country’s timber reserves faced extinction within the next five years given the rate at which they are being decimated by veld fires.

VENERANDA LANGA/
NUNURAI JENA

Addressing legislators attending an environmental workshop in Harare over the weekend, Chasi said veld fires were causing havoc to forests.

“In the next five years Zimbabwe will have to import timber because of the effects of veld fires,” said Chasi.

“Legislators should strengthen environmental laws and environmental courts should be set up to enhance expeditious hearing of cases of violation of environmental laws,” she said.

Chasi said in 2010 veld fires caused the death of 25 people and in 2011 a total of 20 deaths were recorded, while in 2012 three people died and most of the affected were children. According to EMA, about 1 600 hectares of timber forests in Manicaland were destroyed in 2011 alone.

Speaking at the same event, Nkulumane MP Thamsanqa Mahlangu (MDC-T) blamed politicians for stifling EMA’s efforts to enforce environmental laws.

“We have a situation in terms of wetlands whereby the Chinese built hotels on wetlands, but the then Environment minister Francis Nhema let them to go ahead. How did EMA allow the Chinese to build a hotel on a wetland against the laws of this country? It means there is no enforcement,” said Mahlangu.

Principal officer for law enforcement and environmental impact assessment at EMA, Chris Mushava, said they were facing human capacity challenges as they were operating with thin manpower, which was hindering effective enforcement of environmental laws.

Meanwhile, EMA’s Mashonaland West provincial manager Eunice Mutepfa yesterday called for imposition of stiffer penalties for those found guilty of deliberately causing veld fires.

Addressing a stakeholders’ meeting in Chinhoyi, Mutepfa said stiffer penalties instead of fines would assist in curbing the vice.