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Saving what remains of the environment

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By Richard Chirombo & Emmanuel Chirwa:

LUKA—Improper disposal and emulsion of industrial wastes lead to pollution

Malawi’s natural resources face a falling sun, literally.

As trees are cleared to pave the way for farmland, Umodzi Youth Organisation Projects Manager, Shy Ali, cannot see Malawi sustaining its trees in the next 20 years.

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Why?

“The youth, the elderly, locals and foreign nationals alike, seem to be competing for the award of ‘Natural Resources Chief Destroyer’. I say so because, as trees along river banks are being felled recklessly, no one seems to care,” Ali says.

He is speaking from the podium of experience, for his organisation has been implementing a forest conservation project in Blantyre Rural, where charcoal-sellers have found fertile ground for their anti-posterity ventures.

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People’s Federation for National Peace and Development Executive Director Edward Chaka, whose organisation plants trees on Soche Hill and Ndirande Mountain in Blantyre every year, concurs with Ali.

CHAKA—Malawi is facing a falling sun

Chaka says natural resources such as trees are being neglected in Malawi, exposing future generations to the possibility of living in polluted environments “because trees clean the air”.

“That is why, every now and then, I tell people around Soche Hill and Ndirande Mountain that, in as far as natural resources conservation is concerned, Malawi is facing a falling sun.

“The situation is akin to seeing the sun at mid-day and telling a child, while pointing at the sun, that ‘there goes the sun’. Imagine, all of a sudden, a mid-day sun disappearing from sight. That is the situation we are in, in terms of natural resources management. A tree one saw yesterday is likely not to be there today because chances of it being felled are high,” Chaka says.

He says it is high time Malawi put in place strict rules to conserve what remains of its trees.

“The tree, to me, is everything. It gives us clean air. It clears polluted air. It saves river banks from erosion, It gives us shelter. Some trees add nutrients to the soil. To have no trees is to die; to face a falling sun,” he says.

It could be for this reason that, every year, Malawi joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Environmental Day on June 5. This year, the focus was on air pollution.

At this year’s event in Mulanje District, which Malawi commemorated on June 22 under the theme ‘Stop Pollution and Save Lives’, the government urged Malawians to stop polluting the environment.

Taonga Luka, Director of Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, blames people for engaging in activities that fuel pollution, which can be in form of noise, air, water and other forms of counter-productive activities.

“Activities such as setting bush fires, burning of tyres, improper disposal and emulsion of industrial wastes cumulatively lead to pollution. These activities should be reduced and avoided so that the environment is saved,” she says.

She further says the government is committed to combating challenges such as environmental degradation and pollution through implementation of the National Environmental Policy, Climate Change Policy and Environmental Management Act, among other initiatives.

Malawi Environmental Endowment Trust Coordinator, Karen Price, says Malawi has made strides in environmental conservation.

“The country is making strides in a move towards environmental conservation but there is need for implementation of further policies and laws that address gaps that are there,” she said.

Senior Group Village Head Cheza of Mulanje District cannot agree more.

The traditional leader says there is need for sensitisation campaigns on environmental conservation in remote areas.

“That way, we will conserve trees on physical features such as Mulanje Mountain and others. Without conserving trees such as Mulanje Cedar and others, we may lose a part of ourselves,” Cheza says.

Among other initiatives, Malawi has the National Environmental Policy which spells out mechanisms for tackling issues such as agriculture and livestock, forestry, national parks and wildlife, water resources, energy, industry and mining and tourism.

Under chapter 5.2, which deals with forestry, the policy reads: “[The] objective [is] to manage forestry resources endowment in a sustainable manner to maximise benefits to the nation.

“Deforestation is an important contributing factor to soil erosion, siltation of lakes, rivers, dams and other water bodies, loss of biodiversity and climate change.

“The involvement of the private sector and local communities in forestry is critical to improved management, conservation and sustainable utilisation. [Therefore] promotion of private forestry shall be encouraged; community-based participation in the management of forest reserves and forests on customary lands shall be promoted; local communities that participate in the management of indigenous forest resources shall receive financial and other benefits from their sustainable utilisation,” it reads.

It adds that, apart from these efforts, there is need to revise and “update the Forest Act in order to strengthen it in line with the forest policy and to promote participatory forest management and sustainable utilisation of forest resources” as well as continuing the conservation and management of gazetted forestry reserves and prohibit encroachment into protected areas.

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