DEFORESTATION is conquering the human race and ruining the environment in many ways because there is no total control.
The vice is influenced by social and economic factors which include poverty.
Deforestation is bad because it is depriving human beings of oxygen and food.
The environment, the world over, can handle one tree being cut down because one tree is nothing when you look at the whole scheme.
But when you talk about cutting down dozens of square miles of trees, imagine holding your breath for 10 minutes.
Nobody can hold their breath for 10 minutes but that is the approximate amount of oxygen that is deprived of each person when humans cut down about 40 square miles of trees which isn't a lot.
When one tree is cut down, humans prevent more oxygen from being put into the atmosphere.
That means more carbon dioxide.
This causes what is called a chain effect.
Carbon dioxide raises the average global temperature.
In Zambia, deforestation has affected production of mushrooms, caterpillars and other wild fruits for human beings and animals.
Serenje and Mkushi districts are well-known for abundant mushrooms in different forms and sizes and caterpillars which have reduced due to indiscriminate cutting down of trees.
The forestry under which have been heavily depleted include Kanona, Chitambo, Munte, Musola, and Musangashi.
It is against this backdrop that Central Province Administration has embarked on a tree-planting exercise, the national programme which was recently launched by President Michael Sata.
Provincial Deputy Permanent Secretary Ronald Sinyangwe said the level of deforestation in Serenje was alarming and there was need to halt the indiscriminate cutting of trees which had become the order of the day.
Mr Sinyangwe said Serenje which has a forest hectarage of 29,840 was slowly becoming a desert as a result of cutting down of trees for charcoal burning.
He appealed to the forestry department to take an interest and sensitise especially the charcoal burners who have invaded a number of forests in Serenje.
The eco-system is gradually getting affected because of deforestation.
The continued reduction in mushroom and fruit harvests would affect the economy of the areas because household heavily depended on the wild food.
Going by the rate at which cutting of trees is moving at, the social and economic set up will be affected.
Annie Mulenga, a charcoal trader, said she does not take pleasure in dealing in charcoal but claimed that it was because of poverty that caused her to go into such a business.
She is willing to stop the business if she could find another business which would support her and emphasised that she does not want to be a beggar but was interested in sustaining herself.
Agnes Phiri, a Serenje resident, said there was need for the Government to carry out sensitisation programmes at market places and road sides where the commodity was being sold.
Ms Phiri, who was found selling mushrooms at a market in Serenje, said if the cutting down of trees was not controlled, there would be no mushrooms and fruits such as masuku and others.
"Before, we just used to walk a few metres in the forest and find the mushrooms but no one has to scout for it because the trees are scattered due to deforestation and the time to stop it is now," he said.
It is clear that the issue of deforestation and environment is each and everyone's responsibility.
Central Province Minister Philip Kosamu called for concerted efforts in environmental management for sustainable social and economic development.
Mr Kosamu said there is need for the forestry department to be proactive in curbing deforestation.
He said Government is willing to partner with the community in sustainable management of the environment. Government has provided a platform for the stakeholders to contribute to conserving the environment.
This is evidenced in the provisions in the laws of Zambia under the environmental Protect Act.
The Draft Constitution also seeks to amplify the law so that environmental protection was enhanced.
Article 302 of the First Draft Constitution states that the management and development of Zambia's environment and natural resources shall be governed by principles, among them that natural resources have an economic and social value and this shall be reflected in their use and further states that the people shall have access to environmental information to enable them preserve, protect and conserve the environment.
The Government's launch of tree planting in nearly all parts of Zambia cannot not be overlooked but need to be supported because of the benefits it comes with.
If this is not done, Zambia risks losing out on such foodstuffs and wound have to plant some mushrooms which most people have described as tasteless and cannot be compared to the natural Zambian mushrooms which is in different forms.
The onus is on every citizen when cutting down trees and the question that should be asked if there are interested in the forest.
Clearly, the national policy on environment underlines the commitment of Government in partnership with its people to effectively manage the environment for the benefit of present nature future generations of the Zambian people.