OWING to changes of time, environment degradation and increased demand for forest products, the government is presently seeking views from stakeholders in order to amend the Forestry Policy of 1998, it has been revealed.
The Principal Forest Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Nssoko Edwin, said the new policy seeks to protect forests from devastation and curb conflicts between villages and reserved forest areas.
Mr Edwin made the explanation when addressing delegates attending the 33rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association of Local Authorities in Tanzania (ALAT) at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) in Dar es Salaam on Thursday.
According to the forest official, about 582,000 hectares of forests countrywide were destroyed through human activities last year up from 372,000 hectares in 2012.
On the other hand, he informed the delegates from local government authorities that annual demand for forest products stands at 62,000,000 cubic metres and yet the forest can provide just 42,000,000 cubic metres, translating into a shortage of 19,000,000 cubic metres.
“As such the government finds it suitable to amend the policy to accommodate the changes which affect forests; we have so far received views from seven zones countrywide,” Mr Edwin explained.
He cited increased demand for firewood, charcoal, timber as well as ‘nomadic agriculture and bush fires as among major factors putting pressure on forests and thus leading to their destruction.
Mr Edwin pointed further that forests were vital in supporting the country’s industrialisation drive since they host water catchment areas. “It is water from the forests which supports agriculture, industries and generation of electricity, all of which are key inputs for factories,” he explained.
Contributing to the presentation, Sikonge District Executive Director, Mr Simon Ngatunga, blamed the Tanzania Forestry Services (TFS) for failure to manage forest reserves in the country.
“Many people here will agree with me that forest reserves which are under management of local authorities are well protected compared to those under the TFS,” Mr Ngatunga claimed.
The DED went on and accused some employees of TFS for colluding with officials in local government authorities in harvesting forest products for their personal interests.
The views were shared by the Mayor of Arusha, Mr Calist Lazaro, who accused TFS for harassing people surrounding forest reserves and yet have failed to take proper actions to protect the woodlands.