A Finnish timber expert has expressed concern at the high rate of deforestation in Zambia and has called for swift action to address the situation.
Mr Mauri Kiviniemi also observed that the dwindling timber resources, especially in state managed forests was equally worrying and needed huge investments to replenish them.
He said in an interview in Ndola at the weekend that, there was an urgent need to invest in the local timber industry if it is to contribute effectively to the development of the Zambian economy.
Mr Kiviniemi who was in the country for consultations with private sector partners on the establishment of a multi million Kwacha furniture factory in Ndola, said the timber industry had great potential to contribute to the country's gross domestic product(GDP) if properly managed.
He said the mushrooming of illegal timber dealers has greatly contributed to the dwindling of timber resorces generally.
"The rate of deforestation in Zambia is worrying and needs to be addressed quickly if the local timber industry is to be sustained. This also applies to state managed forests which needs huge investments," Mr Kiviniemi said.
He appealed to the Zambian provate sector to take interest in the development and sustainability of the local timber industry by investing massively in the replenishing of dwindling forest resources.
Mr Kiviniemi explained that the forests were strategic to Zambia's socio-economic development and needed to be managed properly.
The timber sector also has potential to create hundreds of jobs especially for the rural population and help to reduce high poverty levels.
He observed that the local industry had been invaded by foreign timber dealers who had engaged local people to illegally tap timber resources from state managed forests for export to other countries in the region.
Mr Kiviniemi called on the Government to expand the monitoring system in order to check illegal activities going unabated in the sector.
He warned that failure to put in place a strong monitoring system, will result in the country turning into a major importer of timber and other related products in future.
"Zambia's has a lot of timber resources but if the government does not put in place a strong monitoring system to check illegal activities, then there is a danger of turning this country into a major importer of timber in future," he said.