Phalombe — Rampant deforestation activities have resurfaced around Mulanje Mountain with people of Phalombe and Mulanje districts turning part of the Mountain into a market place supplying illegal charcoal producers and timber sawyers with food stuffs.
The development comes barely some months after government stopped deploying Malawi Defense Force soldiers to protect the Mountain from the wanton cutting down of trees.
According to Group Village Bwanaisa of Phalombe, a lot of charcoal production and timber sawing is taking place around a place called Mwana-Mulanje at Mulanje Mountain, to an extent that people conducting food stuff businesses have spotted a market there.
"People have started carrying their merchandise up the mountain to sell to those working there against Malawi laws and quicker than normal, the place is becoming a hot market for food items such as fish, vegetables, cooking oil, salt and many more," explained GVH Bwanaisa.
The traditional leader accused the District Forestry Department for not taking any action on the matter despite having received reports from concerned people on the same.
"We have been reporting the issue to the Forestry Office for a while but the only response we get is that the office would act on it but days continue to pass by," he said adding that due to the department's negligence, the wanton cutting down of trees has increased on Mulanje Mountain and Michesi Hills of late.
Commenting on the matter, Phalombe District Forestry Officer, Eric Mbingwani acknowledged having received reports about the malpractice at Mulanje Mountain, however, he said his department has not been able to visit the area due to lack of transportation.
Mbingwani said the only vehicle that the office relies on had broken down hence the inability for the office to conduct routine patrols in the district's hot spots to keep deforestation checked.
"We received reports that people have invaded the forest and are cutting down trees carelessly to burn charcoal and saw timber and this has remained a worrisome development to us; however, we have not been able to visit the scene and address the problem," Mbingwani confessed.
Phalombe District shares Mulanje Mountain with Mulanje District and since 2015 government through its environmental protection initiative deployed Malawi Defense Force Soldiers in the two districts to intensively guard against illegal harvesters on the Mountain.
Among other things, the MDF personnel managed to confiscate charcoal and timber among charcoal producers whilst sending strong messages to the communities in the two districts on the negative effects of deforestation.