The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change has asked the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining to impose a ban on charcoal burning and selling to preserve natural resources.
The members feared that failure to employ such drastic measures would turn the country into a desert.
The members expressed their concern with the manner government, through the ministry, was handling the issue of charcoal burning, saying people’s mindsets will not change if government continues handling the issues at a slow pace.
The officials were meeting the members of Parliament (MPs) on the sidelines of the scrutiny of the proposed 2017/18 National Budget vote to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining which has been allocated K30.5 billion.
Mulanje South MP Bon Kalindo (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) said the rate charcoal was being burnt in the country was alarming and the slow pace of government was worrying.
He said: “We will wake up one day to find a desert. The way trees are being cut is not good. Mulanje Mountain, for instance, is a good example. The trees are continuously depleting and it is very worrisome.”
Kalindo added that the careless cutting down of trees has left the Mulanje Mountain with fewer Mulanje cedar trees.
Balaka West MP Patricia Dzimbiri (Independent) said government’s promises on alternative sources have not yielded fruits hence the need to totally ban charcoal burning.
The committee members also noted that although government has introduced various alternative ways, people are not following them opting for charcoal only.
“We know that there are alternatives like briquettes and the use of gas, but this seem not to bear fruits, we need to a total ban,” said Werani Chilenga, committee chairperson.
In response, the ministry’s director of forestry in the ministry Clement Chilima said government is drafting a strategy to address the issue and from the sentiments of the MPs they will push for a total ban of charcoal.
He said in the draft strategy, they are proposing that offenders should be fined or sent to prison.
Said Chilima: “In the proposed strategy, we have proposed a penalty of K5 million or 10 years imprisonment. I think this will change things. We will launch this strategy in August.”
Currently, K20 000 is the maximum fine if one is found burning charcoal.
With electricity access at about 10 percent coupled with high rates for the average Malawian and unreliable supply, a majority of Malawians use charcoal and firewood as a source of energy for cooking. n