Omatjete — Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has blasted agriculture, water and forestry officials for issuing permits to harvest timber in the northeast without obtaining environmental clearance certificates.
In fact, Shifeta on Sunday fumed during the commemoration of World Wildlife Day which was celebrated in Omatjete, Erongo Region where he called on those looting endangered trees without following proper procedures to be charged.
His statement follows reports that government has received 231 applications from individuals who want to cut down 195 550 trees in northeast in five years.
The Namibian last week reported parliamentarians, government officials, councillors, police bosses, traditional leaders and church leaders rank among 230 individuals who want to cut down around 200 000 rare trees in Kavango East.
It has been reported those set to benefit include Kavango East governor Samuel Mbambo, Rundu mayor Isak Kandingu, former Namibian ambassador to Austria Simon Maruta, Swapo Member of Parliament Sebastiaan Karupu, All People's Party (APP) president Ignatius Shixwameni, and Kavango West Police crime investigations coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Rudolf Mbumba.
Shifeta is unhappy, shifting blame on officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry for giving a greenlight to people especially powerful individuals to harvest timber, but who do not have environmental clearance certificates.
"What is happening is some powerful individuals are the ones looting trees at the expense of the communities. These people are looting timber, it's not harvesting because it's not done in a sustainable manner. Shame on those individuals from the ministry [agriculture] who allow looting of timber. We have started pressing charges whether they have permission from the ministry or not," he reacted.
He threatened that once it's established that those found looting timber do not have permission, then the law will take its course whereby involved officials will be charged for misconduct and violation of the Forestry Act.
By law, people or entities that want to harvest timber in Namibia are required to have a timber harvesting permit, as well as an environmental clearance certificate from the agriculture and environment ministries, respectively.
The government banned the cutting and transportation of timber in November last year after concerns that timber was being harvested without following the correct procedures, and broader concerns over the environmental impact caused by logging mainly in the Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi regions.
Surprisingly, the ministry of agriculture last month announced that the environment ministry had authorised them to lift the moratorium on the transportation of timber that was cut or harvested before November 26, 2018.
However, the moratorium on timber harvesting remains in place, and no harvesting permits will be issued until further notice. In this regard, Shifeta said when the matter came to their attention, the agriculture ministry did not inform them that they gave permits to people to harvest trees.
"They also misled the minister [Alpheus !Naruseb]. I do not know what the executive director is going to do. We will take action. We are going to charge them," he noted.
Shifeta also said that timber traders are involved in illicit activities such as the transportation of endangered products of poached animals such as rhino horns which are often hidden under the harvested logs consignment.
Executive Director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Percy Misika had earlier said only Namibians who have privately owned land and those holding long-term leases on state land were allowed to apply for timber harvesting permits.
In this regard, Shifeta cautioned that commercialising communal farms to allow the illegal harvest of timber should stop and people should use such land for farming as intended.
Read the original article on New Era.
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