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Expert warns against politics in Chikangawa management

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Environmental expert, Godfrey Mfiti, has said government should put up strict measures against political interference in the management of the Viphya Plantations commonly known as Chikangawa.

Mfiti’s sentiments come after government has from November, 2016 up to April, 2017 suspended any forestry activities in the plantation as way of putting in check the massive depletion currently going on.

Spokesperson in the Ministry of Natural Resources Energy and Mining responsible for the environment Sangwani Phiri said recently that among other things the suspension will bring sanity in management of the once–upon-a-time-Africa’s biggest man-made forest.

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Phiri said: “We want to open a new chapter in the civic-cultural activities of the forest. We wnt to rejuvenate the Public Private Partnership Programme (PPPP) and people will soon begin to appreciate how serious we are in returning the lost glory of the Chikangawa.”

Forests research shows that apparently 90 percent of the 58,000 hectares has been destroyed by fire, over-harvesting and illegal sawing among many other unscrupulous activities.

But to Mfiti the PPPPs are not a solution in entirety if politicians continue to meddle in matters of timber sawing licenses among others.

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“Elsewhere PPPPs have been key to sustainable environmental conservation, however the process has to be done in the most transparent manner without involving politics, so much that the private partners should be able to conduct a Human Right’s Impact Assessment,” Mfiti advised.

He observed that for long communities around Chikangawa have been side lined in the affairs of the forest reserve for them to appreciate how they would benefit from the non-timber products.

Mfiti further criticised government’s decision of using Malawi Defence Force soldiers to patrol forest reserves arguing the move is not feasible.

Numerous reports indicate that some of the country’s politicians are at the major concessioners in Chikangawa who are failing to sustain their portions.

Among them are in the group of timber millers that owe government over K640 million in timber royalties.

During the closure government says it will advertise for operators to apply, with those already operating allowed to re-apply and then later go through a normal screening process to ascertain their capability towards prudent management of the plantation.

This comes at the height of the fire season which has so far destroyed over 3,000 hectares.

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