28 February 2013

Tanzania: Re-introduction of Log Tracking System to Curb Illegal Logging

THE problem of illegal logging may soon be a thing of the past following the revival of the log tracking system.

The Tanzania Forest Services Acting Director for Planning and Resource Utilisation, Mr Valentine Msusa, said at a hearing on the state of forest governance that dubious tendencies were alarmingly high.

"Recently, during the compilation of a documentary with the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum, we found that illegal harvesting of timber was rife in the region along the Ruvuma River in four districts," he said. Mr Msusa said that the system was scheduled to be operational after the budget period.

He said that presently, information technology experts at the ministry of natural resources and tourism were working on installing it. "It is difficult to say at the moment how much it will cost to install and run the log tracking system but know for sure that it will make a difference," he said.

Mr Msusa said that previously, a system was in place, thanks to a World Bank project but it had stopped being operational when the project ended. He said that evidence showed that chainsaws were largely being used in illegal logging in spite of the existence of law prohibiting their usage in natural reserve forests.

"We have apprehended 38,000 logs in Mtambaswala, 16,000 in Tunduru and 8,000 in Liwale that were harvested using chainsaws," he announced. He said that in spite of a lot of pressure they were getting, they were sticking to their guns because it was against the law.

The TNRF Arusha Senior Forest Officer, Mr Cassian Sianga, told the 'Daily News' that the findings of the documentary showed that the problem of logging was still very alarming. Mr Sianga said that it was clear the issue of governance, transparency, enforcement of law was a major challenge to the country.

"We found that there are many traders of logs who are not faithful and use chainsaws whilst the law clearly prohibits it," he said. He added that though there were people who believed that illegal logging trends in the country were going down, an in-depth study was needed and that TNRF is contemplating conducting it.

The study that eventually led to the making of the documentary concentrated on four districts along the Ruvuma River and showed that the problem was big and the devastation even bigger.

The Kilwa District Commissioner, Mr Abdalla Ulega, said that the Coast Region was most affected with deforestation because of the readily available market of charcoal in Dar es Salaam. Mr Ulega said that it was saddening to note that whereas it only would have made sense that the Coast Region would be producer of vegetables and fruits, it is popular for charcoal.

"What is desperately needed is to promote alternative ways of income generating activities and alternative means of fuel," he said. He added that whilst sesame seed cultivation was thriving in the region and opportunities were rife, it was proving to be a double edge sword because of a myth that the crop thrived in a piece of land where forest had recently been cleared.

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