MEMBERS of Parliament have unanimously adopted a motion for government to strengthen measures to minimize charcoal burning and reduce deforestation countrywide in view of the devastating effects of climate change.

The motion, passed in Parliament, Wednesday, which was moved by Nakonde PF member of parliament Yizukanji Siwanzi, stated that uncontrolled charcoal production affected global warming through greenhouse gas emissions.

“The motion is not intended at persuading government to ban charcoal burning in Zambia, but rather to strengthen measures, which will assist the country address the negative effects of charcoal burning to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. Madam Speaker, it is a well-known fact that, as a country, we are highly-dependent on hydropower for energy. However, the low investment levels in hydropower, coupled with low rainfall levels, have negatively impacted on the hydropower generation; this is very evident in areas where the Zambezi River passes,” said Siwanzi.

“Madam Speaker, consequently, environmental experts have warned that the Zambian forest risks becoming deserts in the next 15 years going by the current rate of deforestation. Global warming, burning or cutting down trees reverses the effects of carbon sequestration, capture and storage, thereby, promoting global warming. In addition, charcoal is mostly produced in an oxygen poor environment that results in the products of incomplete combustion, such as methane and carbon dioxide. Therefore, charcoal production affects global warming through the production of green house gases.”

And Cheingi FDD member of parliament Given Katuta, who seconded the motion, said that deforestation had increased in the country due to weak measures meant to regulate charcoal production.

“Zambia has not been spared from the effects of climate change as we are witnessing in the many parts of the country. Madam Speaker, forests are rapidly vanishing in Zambia; the country’s rate of depletion of this natural resource is extremely high! Approximately 65 per cent of Zambia’s total land area is covered by forests here in Zambia. As a nation, we can boast of great variety of our trees as alluded by the mover of the motion like the Mukula, which is famous, of course, but the mandate of the Forestry Department under the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resource and Environmental Protection is to enforce national regulation relating to the use and harvesting of forest resources on State and customary lands, yet the forests are rapidly vanishing,” observed Katuta.

“It is important that this government needs to look in the way of minimizing charcoal burning in the country. Madam Speaker, when you look at what is happening in the country, you will see that there has not been some kind of regulating our forests. There has been much deforestation in our country all because there has not been much of regulating of how we can produce charcoal in our country.”

Commenting on the motion, Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa explained that his Ministry embarked on educating the community on the benefits of using other sources like gas and electricity.

“Madam Speaker, my Ministry is equally worried at the levels deforestation in this country. At the moment, we are one of the highest in the region or even in Africa in terms of deforestation. This has huge effects on the rainfall patterns and, therefore, when we don’t have rains, definitely, we will not have power in terms of hydropower. In our country, we have got 80 per cent of our energy, which is produced from hydropower. Therefore, we are very dependent and we have invested heavily into the hydropower,” said Nkhuwa.

“There are many ways of using charcoal: if we introduce proper braziers, we will be able to reduce the consumption of charcoal, therefore, we can reduce deforestation. My Ministry is embarking on teaching the community on the usage of charcoal so that we can reduce mass deforestation. We also want to teach them that if they use gas…gas is much cheaper, even electricity is so much cheaper than charcoal. We have done a study and we have results showing that charcoal is twice (more expensive) than electricity.”

Meanwhile, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Jean Kapata said her Ministry was equally aware of the negative effects of charcoal production on the environment.

“The PF government, through my Ministry, has decided to pay attention to protect trees as they contribute to poverty reduction as well job and wealth creation. Madam Speaker, the policy and the legislation governing the management of utilization of Zambia’s forests resources has redefined ownership and governance in order to ensure enhancement management, while utilizing some of the products. The government has recognized that unsustainable harvesting system relating to charcoal and fuel wood production; excessive and increasing forest clearance for farm land; forest degradation; uncontrolled burning, have led to reduced bio diversity and is contributing to adverse effects of climate change,” said Kapata.

Members of parliament further unanimously moved to adopt the motion.