Government has asked people surrounding Kongwe Forest Reserve to stop encroachment on the reserve in Dowa.
This was said during a recent management and forest conservation meeting that was attended by local leaders living around Kongwe Forest Reserve.
At the meeting, assistant regional forest officer Steria Kachala reminded the communities of the laws, fines and penalties for offences against the Forest Act stipulated in sections 46, 63 and 64.
“Unless under a licence, no person shall cut, take, fell, destroy, uproot and remove forest produce from a forest reserve, customary land, public land and a protected forest area.
“The fine for the offence is K100 000 in default the offender shall serve two years imprisonment,” Kachala said.
On his part, Dowa Police Assistant Superintendent Nervison Chitseko said they fully support government through Dowa Forest Department in its initiative of protecting the forest; so they would not hesitate arresting anyone committing the offence.
“I would like to urge the people not to break the law. As police, we will help protect Kongwe Forest as we have always done.
We are there just to enforce the law, therefore, it is a stern warning that we are going to arrest anyone found breaking the law,” Chitseko said.
Dowa district director of planning and development Emmanuel Bulukutu asked the traditional leaders to be the eyes of government and ensure they report any related cases.
“We should work together in protecting Kongwe Forest as it benefits the communities surrounding it. If it is destroyed, we will be the ones to suffer.
“As leaders, let us ensure we are not in the forefront cutting down trees. Let us be the ones protecting our forest and enforcing the law at village level,” said Bulukutu.
This year alone, Dowa Court has handled two cases concerning Kongwe Forest, where one offender was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.