GWERU: The Forestry Commission has raised concerns over lack of resources and low fines over firewood poachers as major setbacks in their fight against curbing environmental crime.
Midlands Province Foretsry Commission manager, Roderick Nyahwai also said COVID-19 set curfew also affected their operations noting that time beyond curfew is when usually looters move their loot.
“The problem is that most of our rangers work within the stipulated times of 0800 hours to 1530 in line with COVID protocols. Now these firewood dealers usually operate at night to avoid raids. We end up rounding people like these who sell at the back of the shops but as you can see, this entire place is said to be owned by three people which makes it three tickets.
“Transport issue is another factor that is affecting our operations. Our raids are mostly in Zvishavane and Gweru since some areas have no transport at all. We need to save the environment at all costs,” said Nyahwai.
Lack of deterrent measures in dealing with perpetrators has also been identified as another factor that has seen the law enforcement agents failing to deal with the vicious cycle.
“The problem is that the law prescribes that when one is arrested with the firewood, they have to pay a fine of three thousand dollars and we release them. This has seen us arresting the same people time and again as there is no custodial sentence to offenders. We need to come up with a more robust legislative framework that deals with perpetrators if we are to preserve this environment for future generations,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Forestry commission in the midlands province has intensified its raid on firewood poachers in response to the national firewood blitz in a move that has seen several people being arrested while property has been confiscated during the exercise.
In the Midlands province, most of the raids are targeting the firewood barons who sometimes use trucks to poach firewood with 77 people having been fined while 17 cars and 16 scotch carts have been confiscated under the operation.
It’s a cat and mouse game for the Forestry rangers and the firewood poachers who have devised ways of evading the law.
The recent incessant power cuts announced by the power utility ZESA, has resulted in a rise in demand for alternative sources of energy, prompting firewood poachers to get in an overdrive mode in a scenario that is threatening the environment at large.
Pic Credit: EnviroPress