Members of Parliament (MPs) under Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change have accused Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining officials of being major culprits in facilitating the plunder of the country’s forest reserves.
Illegal logging has been a pervasive and widespread problem, which has caused damage to forests in the country.
This prompted the committee to tour some of the forests at the weekend to establish and appreciate challenges the forestry industry is facing in the country.
The objective of the tour was to find lasting solutions to problems that threaten natural and man-made forests in the country through illegal logging and timber milling.
The tour took the MPs and journalists to Viphya Plantation popularly known as Chikangawa Forest, Luwawa, Raiply and Mazamba forests in Mzimba.
The committee members, among others, toured Chikangawa Forest under the Chikangawa Plantations Limited and timber processors—Raiply Malawi Limited (RML), to establish reasons contributing to depletion of the country’s biggest man-made forest.
Committee chairperson Werani Chilenga told journalists that their impression is that the Forestry Department is at the centre of the problem.
Chilenga, who is also member of Parliament (MP) for Chitipa South (People’s Party-PP), observed that although there has been a growing concern from various players and stakeholders, there is general lack of commitment to take action against the culprits.
Deputy director of Forestry Teddie Kamoto lay the blame for deforestation on lenient sentences courts mete out to operators who have been found guilty.
Said Kamoto: “Courts have their own position. If you note some of the cases which were taken to court, you would cry with the lenient sentences being handed down to illegal operators.”
Raiply Malawi chief executive officer Thomas Oomen underscored the need to expedite revision of forestry laws to tackle the problem.
Oomen challenged that the existing laws are outdated and cannot effectively deal with illegal logging and timber milling.