Eastern Province Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo says the hot pursuit of the Mukula and Mukwa trees has exacerbated tree-cutting to unprecedented levels in the province.

And Kasolo has revealed that Eastern Province has received a US $32.8 million grant from the World Bank, aimed at addressing the effects of climate change resulting from the over-cutting down of trees.

In an interview with News Diggers! in Lusaka, Tuesday, Kasolo said the grant from the Bank would be used in afforestation and reforestation activities to grow back the forests that were depleted due to tree-cutting.

“Eastern Province has a nasty tag of being wasteful in tree-cutting. Two reasons; one is that the chaps who have been cutting prefer special species of tree such as Mukula, and Mukwa and Rosewood. Those are the types of wood. And a lot of people have done the cutting carelessly. They don’t care about conservation. They just cut and take the wood away. It is a running battle with the police because over the years we have been trying to curb this. The other reason is cutting tree for charcoal. You see, if you go to Malawi, it’s typically just grass no big tree at all. And people want to sell charcoal across that boarder. And so, we have a lot of tree-cutting such that we are the worst in the country. There are actually a lot of people that come from other provinces and camp in Eastern Province to try and make charcoal for sale. That is where the problem is. And that is a pretty big problem for the Eastern Province. Luckily, we have the World Bank who have come on board to try and help us deal with such issues,” Kasolo said.

He said the World Bank has reserved US $32.8 million for the province, which he said would only be granted when the initial grant is effectively used.

“The World Bank has given us $32.8 million to counter the effects of climate change, and a significant proportion of this will go towards tree-planting and forest conservation and other measures of a similar nature. And you know, we are very lucky because the World Bank actually said they will give us an additional $30 million if we effectively use this $32.8 million that we have been given now. So, we will ensure that we use this money prudently,” Kasolo pledged.

He added that plot-grabbing and squatting were also among other challenges in the provinces.

“We have certain areas where we have forest reserves, owned by government, which have been intruded upon by squatters. People just go on and take plots and so on, which is a big fight that we have in Eastern Province, and I am chairing a committee trying to resolve that,” said Kasolo.

“We will do, and we have several options. One, is to chase everybody out of the land and so that they go and settle elsewhere. The other option is that, maybe we make these people that are squatting there to plant trees around them. You see, they cut all the trees around there to make way for the housing. I still don’t understand the mentality of people who do that. But the big thing is that, the World Bank has made this fund available to us and this fund will be used to the last penny on conservation methods. Trees will include; species such as Mukula.”