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Forests are about life, protect them

23rd October 2012
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Editorial cartoon

Today we carry a story of yet another serious threat to our environment.

It is about Mamiwa Forest Reserve in Morogoro Region that has been invaded by illegal miners, farmers, and loggers, who are destroying

it in apparent impunity.

This 14,000-hectare reserve is not only important as part of the national forest cover, t is home to a number of rare and endangered species of birds and animals.

We are also told that it is the only reliable water source for Kilosa and Gairo districts in Morogoro Region, making it that much more crucial to take every necessary measure to protect it.

But reports from our team which accompanied researchers and foresters to the reserve, found the invaders busy deep in the forest, some of them tending to their crops, others cutting down trees, and yet more digging for minerals, apparently without the slightest worry that authorities could at any time pay them a surprise visit, let alone mount an operation to clear them out of the reserve.

That is why, when they saw the team forest researchers and journalists, they ran into the hills, from where they reportedly began plotting an assault.

Sadly the situation is so because of helplessness on the part of the authorities charged with protecting the forest reserve.

The area’s ward councilor pointed out that the area lacked communication, allowing the invaders to do as they wished with the law abiding citizens looking on helplessly because they could not inform the authorities in good time to trigger action.

Worse still, the Kilosa District forest assistant officer Charles Kalaita, the only one guarding the reserve has blamed the meagre budget, shortage of staff and lack of communication and arms to conduct patrols, saying the situation has accelerated illegal activities in the area.

Assistant District Catchment Forest Manager Hadija Haule

says due to lack of funds, she last visited Masenge village, a point close to the forest, for public awareness campaigns in 2006 and since then has not gone back.

Researchers have warned that at the rate it is being mowed down, the forest’s life span and the rare fauna found in it would be eliminated within the next ten years, if the government does not immediately smoke the invaders out.

We have no doubt that the villagers who sound so helpless, if given the necessary support can do a lot to protect our forest reserves. They have shown that they are very much aware of the importance of the forest to their lives, appealing for help to confront the invaders.

Indeed no plan can be effective in protecting our forests if it does not take account of the people’s participation.

Apparently the forest officials in Kilosa which oversees the Mamiwa Forest Reserve had embarked on a sensitization campaign, but abandoned it, citing lack of funds after donors withdrew support.

When making any decisions, what should be uppermost in our minds is that preservation of the environment is sustaining life.

Everything else will not matter when there is no life, just because we failed to find a way of preserving the environment.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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