Stakeholders in the forest industry in Korogwe District, Tanga Region, have raised concern over the Forestry Act of 2002, saying it has failed to contain the wave of wanton destruction of forests in the country.
Leading the campaign to amend the law is Korogwe District Commissioner Mrisho Gambo, who says there is need of instituting heavy penalties to people destroying forests who now get light sentences.
“A person who is found guilty of forest destruction is only charged between 50,000/- to 2,000,000. The damage and fine are two different things since the environment cannot be recovered by 50,000/-,” Gambo said recently at a stakehol lead conserved are also among the destructors, this is the shame to see government officials are engaged with illegal harvesting of forest for their self interest” He says ders meeting.
“The current law seems to support those who harvest forests products such as charcoals and timbers to the detriment of the environment,” he said.
“This law does not give heavy punishments to wrongdoers who continue to destroy our environment through cutting down trees for their own benefits.”
“After I was appointed District Commissioner, the first issue was to stop the indiscriminate tree-felling in our forests reserves such as Sakare, Bungo and others. I made frequent visits to villages surrounding forests reserves and to saw how our forests were being laid waste.
In his quest to end environmental destruction, the District Commissioner managed to halt all illegal activities carried out along the river Ngalaya, the source of water for many Korogwe district residents.
During his sudden visit to forest reserves, Gambo discovered that the rate of tree-felling had gone beyond control as people had started mining gold and other precious gemstones. The mining activities had attracted over 2,000 people from within and outside the district who camped at Mpale ward.
“I ordered them to vacate the area within 28 days failure of which they would be punished severedly,” he said.
Korogwe Rural Constituency Member of Parliament Steven Ngonyani, alias, Profsa Majimarefu, said that government officers entrusted with forest conservation were the ones also engaged in the illegal timber and charcoal trade.
“I wonder why people given the responsibility of conserving forests are the ones who destroy them for personal interest,” he said.
“We’re now building a police post at Bungu where policemen would patrol the forest reserves surrounding the villages,” he said.
The police is expected to be inaugurated this months to ensure that the forest reserves are firmly protected against invaders engaged in illegal tree-cutting.
Ngonyani disclosed that in this month’s parliamentary session he would table a motion of repealing the Forest Act No. 14 of 2002 to ensure that forests are firmly controlled through heavy penalties for people engaged in felling down trees illegally.
Korogwe District Assistant Forest Manager Beth Munuo revealed that there is huge destruction of forests reserves in the district. She said poverty of many Korogwe villagers was the major factor behind the wanton cutting down of trees in reserve forests.
“The forest act does not give heavy punishments to people taken to the court for illegal harvesting of trees without having licenses,” she said.
She added: “Mining activities undertaken at Bungu Division have destroyed water sources and the ecology of the area.”
Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG)’s Project Manager Elinasi Monga said that forest justice in Tanzania is promoting good governance and improving accountability in the forestry sector in the country.
He said the initiative is a partnership between the Community Forest Conservation Network of Tanzania, known as MJUMITA and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG).
Monga said magistrates must give sentences or fines based on the size of the damages caused to forests.
“Prosecutors should help magistrates deliver realistic sentences based on the of damage caused to forests,” he explained.
“I congratulate the Korogwe Districts Commissioner, workers of the department of natural resources in the district, village leaders and villagers for waging a relentless campaign against deforestation,” he said.
The Forest Act No. 14 of 2002 (Cap 323) clearly defines the powers and responsibilities of the forest officers, giving them prosecutorial powers to illegal dealers in forest products.