Despite peacemaking efforts, government has refused to allow Timber Millers Cooperatives Union to resume their work in the depleted Viphya Plantation.
Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines spokesperson Sangwani Phiri said members of the union, who were expelled from the forest two years ago having wiped out trees on the northern tip of the forest without replanting, will need to justify their intention to return.
The union leaders have promised to manage the forest sustainably, withdraw court cases against government and repay K196 million it owes government.
Phiri said although the two sides have agreed to work together in restoring the forest, government does not permit the cooperatives to resume timber-making in the closed forest.
“Officials are assessing the situation and soon will come up with a position. Even if the plantation is re-opened, the union will not be allowed into the forest until it makes an application and justify why its members should be allowed to operate in the plantation,” he said.
The union has expressed interest to embark on a tree-planting exercise on the deforested zone, but its president Paul Nthambazale said they will not have to plant trees on the whole 10 000-hectares since about 3000 hectares comprise young trees and some eucalyptus forests.
In an interview, he said it would be “a very big task” to restore the forest cover on the remaining 7000 hectares.