The Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) has said the continued movement of charcoal from the Dzalanyama Forest Reserve to Lilongwe City shows that the country needs to do more in the battle against deforestation in the reserve.
The Dzalanyama Forest Reserve is a source and the main catchment area of Lilongwe River, which is the current source of water for the LWB.
Following concerns on the increased illegal activities including charcoal production, LWB has embarked on a number of initiatives and activities to protect and preserve the forest and among them is financially supporting the patrols in the reserve by the Malawi Defence Force soldiers as a way of stopping charcoal production.
The patrols are being done under an agreement between the Ministry of Energy, Mining and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Defence.
But when he appeared before the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament last week, LWB Chief Executive Officer Alfonso Chikuni said although the board pumps in about K8 million monthly for the soldiers’ allowances, the battle seems far from over.
“Now we are paying over K8 million a month but we haven’t seen any significant change in the presence of charcoal in the city. We are spending money but still the harvesting is taking place. It requires a lot of stakeholders’ involvement,” Chikuni said.
He said it is not a straightforward response to reinstate the catchment area and it needs critical decisions to create that turn of event.
“There are other countries that have changed their forests into trusts and things have changed. But it doesn’t take 10 years, it takes a lot of years to grow back, especially with the settlements we need to have very strong determination from government,” he said.
The depletion of Dzalanyama Forest has affected the amount of water that LWB harvests annually, forcing it to desperately look for other alternatives including the controversy-marred Salima- Lilongwe Lake Malawi Water Supply project.
Apart from Dzalanyama, the government is also using Malawi Defence Force soldiers for patrols in Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve and Viphya Plantation in the Northern Region
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