Rapidly expanding Chiredzi has no by-laws on trees

ECC Champion

Urban expansion is coming with detrimental consequences for ecological balance, as the massive cutting down of trees without replacement continues to characterize new construction projects.

Chiredzi is one of the places to be highly-affected by this challenge since the town council is yet to craft requisite bylaws.

The absence of bylaws that govern the cutting down of trees at construction sites and for construction purposes has seen great numbers of the Mopane tree going down.

Contractors cut down the trees and use the poles during the building exercise.

One typical example is the one at New Town where contractors have gathered many Mopane poles for one use or the other.

Chiredzi Town Council chairperson, Gibson Hwende told EnviroPress that council was yet to craft the necessary bylaws to govern the cutting down of tree resources when building homes and business premises.

“At the moment we do not have bylaws that respond to that particular matter but we are working on crafting them. At the moment rely on the Forestry Act,” said Hwende.

According to the Forestry Act (Chapter 19:05), it is an offence to cut, injure, remove and collect any forest produce without authority and to move firewood from one place to another without a timber movement permit issued by Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe..

By the look of things, however, the majority of contractors in Chiredzi are not following the rules as they keep on cutting down Mopane trees on a large scale for use during construction activities.

This has had a direct negative impact on biodiversity whereby the various small animal species that either live or feed on the trees are finding less habitat or food.

Mopane is the most common tree in Chiredzi and it provides habitat and food for Mopane worms (Madora) which have become extinct in much of the district partly because of massive deforestation.

The worms are important species as they play an important ecological role in converting plant matter into nutrients that are available to the animals and other plants.

Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe Chiredzi district officer, David Mandongwe said contractors were only allowed to use poles that they would have got from their farms after getting a permit from his organisation.

“No one is allowed to cut down trees and use them without consulting the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe. We only allow those who have a permit to cut down trees maybe on their piece of land which they want to use for agricultural purposes,” said Mandongwe.

Meanwhile a residents association has said it welcomed urban growth as long as it was properly managed with due regard for environmental conservation.

“The town council should come up with enforceable bylaws to protect our trees. These are natural resources that we continue to lose has a result of unregulated exploitation,” said Chiredzi Residents and Ratepayers Association (CHRRA) chairperson Jonathan Muusha Mupamombe.

This report was made possible through support from WAN-IFRA Media Freedom’s Strengthening African Media Programme: Climate Change and Environmental Reporting. Views expressed here do not belong to WAN-IFRA.