Grave concern over rampant forest fires

Grave concern over rampant forest fires

10 October 2011

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Tanzania — Controller auditor general (CAG) Ludovick Utouh has expressed concern over frequent forest fires and rampant illegal logging, warning that if left unchecked the two could turn consumed forests into deserts.

Speaking here over the weekend during environmental audit review training, he said that forests in most parts of the country were increasingly threatened by rampant fire and wanton tree felling.

“We are in a very difficult situation; because forest fire doesn’t spare growing trees and other plant species… so, something need to be done to address these activities, which are detrimental to all of us and the world at large,” he said.

The CAG asked local communities living near the forest reserves to play their roles in stopping illegal activities there, as they pose a serious threat to their own and country’s socio-economic development.

Uncontrolled flames, illegal harvesting, overgrazing and encroachment of reserved forests for agricultural activities, are some of the major challenges highlighted in the recent World Forests report.

Tanzania is losing an average of 420,000 hectares of forests annually through uncontrolled fire and rampant tree felling, the problem which has been compounded by the fact that majority of people in rural areas cut trees willy-nilly for domestic use and farming activities while others do so to make charcoal, which has become big business in some areas.

Utouh also noted that the rate at which deforestation was taking place in the country was “alarming”, calling for holistic approach to address the main causes of environmental degradation, which in turn have changed almost everything in the country.

“People should take into account that climate change has started to affect most areas which earlier were productive, but now it is not the case,” he said, adding: “This is what prompted us to intervene and carry-out forest auditing, so that we can advice the government and other local government authorities how best they can address the problem.”

He also revealed that several times they had been advising the government on the sector. “In 2007, we carried out a study on frequent floods in the Babati Township and the government worked on our advices. In response, they have moved the township into another area, which is suitable for human settlement,” the CAG said.

Programme manager of a Norwegian organisation—Intosai Development Initiative (IDI) Dwita Pradana said that the world was in stress, and the main stress had been caused by climate change.

Pradana cited the melting of icecap on the Mt. Kilimanjaro, saying: “This is clear evidence that climate change is real and calls for countries to work upon the issue.”

He said that unpredictable rains had been a key challenge to people in developing countries, who rely on rain-fed agriculture. The official called for collective efforts amongst stakeholders within the country and neighboring countries to address the problem.

The one-week training involved delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Belize, Estonia and Norway.

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