By Faith Mwafulirwa
The Minister of Forestry and Natural Resources Nancy Tembo has urged members of parliament to support the forestry Act Amendment 2020 once brought in parliament for revision in order for the ministry to effectively implement the act.
The minister was speaking in Lilongwe during an interface meeting she held with parliamentary committee members of legal, agriculture and natural resources committees.
She said since the enactment of the Forest Amendment bill 2019, which was gazetted in June 2020 the ministry, is still facing challenges in the implementation of the bill.
“My ministry is discouraged by the penalties which are handed over to forestry offenders which often times are too low to deter would be offenders. How would you charge a person K20, 000 on a case whose maximum penalty is K5, 000,000?” she wondered.
In response to the ministers concern, chief Resident magistrate Violet Chipao said there are some issues that need to be incorporated when drafting bills so that they are in line with the law in order for them to be easily implemented once passed in parliament.
For his part, the Chairperson of the committee Welani Chilenga said government needs to move swiftly to make necessary changes in the forestry act amendment in order to address gaps which have made its implementation difficult.
Chilenga said parliament was more than committed to support the ministry of forestry and natural resources in conserving the environment.
He said however the ball lies in the hands of the ministry to act with speed in bringing the necessary changes to accommodate views from the judiciary as one way of addressing gaps in prosecution and sentencing of offenders.
During the interface, it was observed that there is a need to revise the act by among others improving regulation of charcoal, increase transparency and accountability and strengthen law enforcement and provision of penalties