President Edgar Lungu has revealed that Zambia lost an average 276,021 hectares of forests per year between 2000 and 2014 due to forestation.
President Lungu attributed the high rates of deforestation to agricultural expansion, uncontrolled wood fuel and timber extraction, bush fires, mining and infrastructure development.
He said he is also aware that there is a lot of illegal harvesting of timber across the country resulting in reduced forest cover.
President Lungu said destruction of forests, coupled with excessive settlement and other human activities, lead to uncontrolled severe soil erosion, high sediment load and subsequent siltation of hydroelectric dams and decreased river flow.
President Lungu was speaking in Lusaka during the National Tree Planning ceremony held at Kabulonga Girls High School.
“If we harness this resource properly, it is capable of creating wealth and jobs for our citizens particularly the youth. we will therefore, as a responsible government, pursue this path of development through both internal and external avenues,” he said.
President Lungu said government is committed to ensuring that the country’s forests are well conserved for them to become a viable resource for the country’s socio-economic development.
“It is for this reason that my government adopted the national forestry policy in October, 2014 and the Forests Act no. 4 of 2015 was also enacted to ensure effective implementation of this policy. The new policy and legislation provide for the establishment of private and community forests,” he said.
President Lungu said government’s position is to promote value addition in order to avoid export of unprocessed and semi-processed timber.
He said this will significantly contribute to wealth and job creation and consequently improving the living standards of our people.
“In this regard, for us to promote forest conservation and reduce the pressure on forests as a source of wood energy, we must encourage the use of alternative domestic energy sources and sustainable charcoal production techniques. I wish to direct the ministry of lands and natural resources to ensure that all timber extraction and other forestry-related activities are conducted within the provisions of the forests act of 2015. perpetrators of illegal forestry-related activities must be brought to book,” he said.
“Let me underscore the need for to take keen interest in environmental protection by planting trees at least one tree every year. Let us get involved: the youth, women, men, that chief executive, that minister, that member of parliament in planting a tree today.”