THE ministry of environment says the government's decision to stop the issuance of permits for the harvesting and exporting Namibian timber is based on the need to ensure the use of natural resources is done in a sustainable manner.
This was said by the ministry's chief public relations officer, Romeo Muyunda, in reaction to allegations in a video circulating on social media that the ban on timber harvesting is jeopardising economic development in Kavango East and West regions.
Muyunda dismissed these allegations last week.
He said Article 95 (l) of the Namibian Constitution provides that the country's natural resources be used in a sustainable manner for the benefit of present and future generations.
"It is our view that the growth of our economy is the key for us to meet our developmental goals in every region.However, economic development should not be used as an excuse to violate the law and damage the environment," said Muyunda.
He said all natural resources, in this case the valuable hard wood timber can easily be depleted and should be utilised sustainably in accordance with Namibian laws, including the Environmental Management Act (EMA), No: 7 of 2007. Muyunda added that the interventions the government has taken would ultimately lead to improved quality of life for the people of the two regions.
The media has reported in recent months that thousands of trees have been lost due to illegal and uncontrolled harvesting mainly by a group of elites from Rundu, who have submitted hundreds of applications to the government to cut thousands of trees for export.
Addressing Namibia's national event to mark International Biodiversity Action Day held at Rundu in Kavango East region last month, environment and tourism deputy minister, Bernadette Jagger, said illegal and uncontrolled timber harvesting would have major cumulative impacts on the environment.
"It is mandatory in terms of Section 31 of the act that applications for such activities are submitted to the office of the environmental commissioner prior to any issuance of harvesting permit," she said.
The director of forestry in the agriculture ministry, Joseph Hailwa, told The Namibian recently the rate at which the timber was being harvested was not sustainable and hence the suspension, but added that although there is a suspension, it should be noted that there are some timber being exported through Namibia from SADC countries such as Zambia and the DRC through bilateral agreements.
The Namibian has reported that the controversial timber harvesting has seen 10 000 blocks of wood being exported to China and Vietnam since November 2018.