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Armed loggers risk military retaliation

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The Department of Forestry in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining has warned that armed individuals encroaching into the Viphya Plantations and other forest reserves risk military aggression.

Encroaches into Viphya Plantations, which is commonly known as Chikangawa, are manufacturing homemade muzzle loaders to scare away officers who are operating in the plantation, The Daily Times has learnt.

The forest, which has lost a huge percentage of its trees due to illegal logging, is also being protected by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) officers.

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“Government wishes to remind the general public that the Viphya Plantation is currently closed to any form of logging.

“The general public is also informed that, according to Sections 43 and 67 of the Forestry Act, it is a serious offence for anyone to convey into, possess or use weapons, traps or explosives in a forest reserve or protected forest area without permit,” reads a statement from the Forestry Department.

It further warns that since the department is collaborating with MDF to enforce the law in Viphya Plantation and other forest reserves, and says any attempt to interfere with the operations using any weaponry or explosives will be deemed as an act of aggression and will be subject to military retaliation in its fullest extent.

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Apart from Viphya Plantations, MDF officers are also protecting Dzalanyama Forest Reserve and Mulanje Mountain, which have also lost a significant percentage of trees to charcoal burning and other illegal activities.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change has faulted police and forestry officers for apparently fuelling the destruction of forest reserves through corruption.

The committee recently met officials from the Malawi Police Service and the Judiciary where the lawmakers said officers in roadblocks receive bribes and allow individuals without permits to go through with forestry products.

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