GOVERNMENT has with immediate effect, suspended all timber licences to protect the depleting forests around the country.
Meanwhile, Parliament heard yesterday that over 25 million trees equivalent to 20,000 hectares will be planted during the 2012/2013 tree planting season countrywide to help address depleting forests due to increased deforestation.
Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister, Wylbur Simuusa said the programme would be implemented through the launch of the National Tree Planting Programme (NTPP).
He said in a ministerial statement that deforestation rates globally stood between 250,000 to 300, 000 hectares per annum and the attendant annual saw log or timber deficit was 2.5 million cubic metres.
Mr Simuusa said the NTPP, once fully rolled out, could create over 200,000 jobs while the first phase of establishing 11 large scale forest nurseries and community ones could create over 6,000 jobs countrywide.
"There is urgent need Mr Speaker, for a serious concerted effort to address this very serious situation and for the first time in 30 years, your Patriotic Front (PF) Government in line with its manifesto has taken a bold step to address the depleting forest resources by funding my ministry with an initial amount of K12 billion," he said.
Among other tree species to be planted in different parts of the country include, pinus and eucalyptus for timber, poles and resins, faldherbia albida for animal fodder, nitrogen fixing, firewood, moringa oleifera for medicine and oil and fruits trees.
Mr Simuusa said the purpose of funding was to establish 11 large scale tree nurseries in all 10 provinces and one at the Forestry Research Centre in Kitwe.
He said the funding would raise 17,500,000 tree seedlings in 11 large scale forest nurseries countrywide by December 15, 2012 and would engage about 5,000 local people during production.
Her said the funding would assist in developing an out-grower scheme to produce 8 million seedlings countrywide valued at K 1 billion which would involve chiefs, schools, churches and other stakeholders.
At provincial level, he said, the nursery size could be two to three hectares per district, 1,550 tonnes of soil collected for nursery while 452 workers would be engaged in each province and at the Forest Research Centre.
Central Province would have 700 hectares, Copperbelt 5,000, Eastern 2,700, Luapula 5,000, Lusaka 4,000, Muchinga 10,000, Northern 5,000, North-Western 5,000, Southern 3,000, and Western 5, 000.
He said forestry were a renewable natural resource which with prudent management, could sustain the country in providing forestry goods and employment opportunities.
On the suspension of timber licences, he said, as empowered under section 6 8 (2)F of the Forest Act number 39 of 1973 Cap 199 of the Laws of Zambia, the move would not apply to exotic timber plantations or timber that legally extracted, processed and was in timber yards, factories or markets.
MMD Keembe MP, Ronnie Shikapwasha wondered what Government was doing to address increased charcoal burning to which Mr Simuusa responded that Government was in discussion with stakeholders.