Malawi is heading for a disaster, if the destruction on the environment is anything to go by. The speed at which the defilement is occurring is unfathomable.
Once upon a time, Malawi had the largest man-made forest in Chikangawa. Today, that expanse of greenery is bare.
It is even harder to believe that once the Mulanje cedar was Malawi’s national tree. Today, you hardly see the tree, which was endemic to Mulanje Mountain.
Further plunder has been done with other trees like pine on the mountain. At one point, some Chinese ‘investor’ was granted a licence to get samples of rare earths. It is still not known what came of the findings of the tests of the tonnes of samples that the investor took to China.
The plunder is evident in the mountains. It is rare to find a mountain that is covered as it was of old.
Trees are being cut wantonly, without regard. What is most disheartening, as has been the case with the Michiru Mountain in Blantyre, most of the trees that are being poached are indigenous trees that have provided cover for decades. These trees are very hard to replace.
In the first instance, corruption is to blame for the destruction. It has been noted that some forestry officials connive with the poachers. There was a case on Mulanje Mountain when the Malawi Defence Force was deployed to help protect the forestry reserve, plunderers knew exactly which areas the soldiers would be patrolling and they would go into another virgin land.
While we are at it, there has been growing animosity between forestry and national parks and wildlife officials. It is sad that officials have been killed in the process of protecting the environment. A ranger was killed by a mob at Liwonde National Park, another one was mercilessly hacked to death in the line of duty at Majete Game Reserve and not so long ago, a forestry worker was killed by villagers who were encroaching into Michiru.
The list can go on, and it seems there is no proper solution to the growing animosity.
While we are talking about it, it seems government is just paying lip-service where protecting the environment is concerned. It has spoken highly on the international scene its commitments to restore and protect the environment.
If my memory serves me right, a top forestry official hinted that government would employ more rangers to help protect the environment. Sadly, that was just empty talk. We can go back to Michiru, where today only 11 forestry rangers ‘protect’ the reserve, where 70 guards would be needed. Mind you, these guards are not armed.
Urbanisation has its role in this plunder. As pressure for development increases, some are even building houses in hills and mountains.
But it is clear that one day, nature will revenge. In fact, it has already started doing so.
Not long ago, some people were building houses on the Nankhaka River in Lilongwe. They were doing so having noted that the water had dried up and there was just sand. But, remember, when the rains came, there was flooding and houses were swept away. Clips went about town of sofa sets floating in the river!