People challenging the ban on charcoal production by sneaking in the night to cut trees will be punished when caught, Chief Sipatunyana of the Tonga people of Kalomo district has warned.

The traditional leader told the Daily Nation yesterday that some disgruntled subjects were in the habit of secretly sneaking out in the night to cut trees indiscriminately for charcoal burning.

He said since imposing the ban on charcoal production in the chiefdom in 2004, the felling of trees in his chiefdom had reduced but said there were some people who were still challenging his orders.

He said it was sad that some people did not see the importance of preserving natural forests  and were only preoccupied with making money through charcoal burning without considering the implications of such activities on the climate.

“It is disheartening to know that even after imposing a ban on charcoal production in 2004, there are still some people who are still secretly cutting down trees but I want to sound a warning that those people who do not want to cooperate will be dealt with accordingly if that is what they want.

“It is sad that people do not appreciate the importance of preserving our natural forests despite continued sensitizations by the Department of Forestry from time to time. The whole country right now is grappling with poor rains. The situation is likely to be worse this year than the previous years but we are still unable to realise the harm we have caused to our environment which come with unbearable repercussions,” Chief Sipatunyana said.

He said the country will continue to experience poor rains if citizens did not take it upon themselves to change the state of affairs by changing their attitudes towards the preservation of natural forests.

He noted that the Forestry Department was doing a commendable job in ensuring that people were sensitised on the need to preserve forests but that the office was understaffed as there was only one forest ranger in the district.

“I think there is lack of political will in the Forestry Department, especially here in Kalomo because there is only one forestry ranger to man the whole district and as a result, efficiency has become a problem.

“The department is doing well but there is need for Governmnet to send more staff so that we can have adequate manpower to serve the community because as things are right now, service delivery is still a challenge because the officer cannot be everywhere at all times,” he said.

He said the burden of poor rains affected all Zambians, adding that there was need for collective efforts to ensure that those who were exploiting the forests were not spared.

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