State to engage forest guards

GOVERNMENT says it will this year engage forest guards in an effort to safeguard forests across the country.
Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection permanent secretary Barnaby Mulenga said in an interview here yesterday that the removal of forest guards about 15 years ago created a huge gap in the protection and management of forests.
Mr Mulenga said Government attaches importance to the protection of forests because they are critical in mitigating the effects of climate change.
“We had a lapse when we got rid of forest guards in the year 2000 because it was after the forest guards went that we had a lot of our forests invaded by squatters,” he said.
Mr Mulenga said Government is initially targeting at least 10 forest guards and hopes to increase the number in future.
He said the forest guards are expected to work effectively once the Forest Bill is enacted into law because it has a provision for community foresting.
This entails that the guards will work hand in hand with the communities around the forests in policing the reserves.
The rampant charcoal burning around the country is also as a result of the absence of forest guards.
Mr Mulenga said there is need to strike a balance between the need to preserve forests and the quest for development.
He said some forests had been de-gazetted in the past to allow for the development of infrastructure in view of the rising population.
And Mr Mulenga said Government is currently undertaking a land policy review process to address issues of access to land.
He said Government’s position on illegal land allocation is clear, prompting the creation of a task force to deal with the challenge.

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