Timber harvesting stopped

All logging and trade in slow-growing hardwoods in the northern and north-eastern parts of the country must stop immediately.

28 November 2018 | Environment

The forestry directorate of the ministry of agriculture, water and forestry has officially ordered the suspension of the harvesting and trading in Namibia's timber.

The directorate on Monday issued a memorandum in which it instructed forestry officials to suspend all issued permits with immediate effect and to stop issuing new permits until further notice. The memorandum stated that the agriculture and environment ministries were discussing how to harmonise the regulation of timber harvesting. “Please inform the clients that all timber activities are put on hold, hence they must not harvest, transport, market or export any timber products (logs, blocks, planks) to avoid confiscating their timber,” the director of forestry, Joseph Hailwa, instructed. This comes after the shocking revelation by environment minister Pohamba Shifeta last Friday that all the timber harvesting permits issued in the last three years were illegal because they had not received the requisite environmental clearance.

Shifeta then called for all permits to be withdrawn and said his ministry wanted evidence of such withdrawal.

Cabinet recently noted with concern “limited compliance” by government offices, ministries and agencies in terms of obtaining environmental clearance before exploiting natural resources. It directed that all government offices submit environmental management plans to the environment ministry in compliance with the Environmental Management Act of 2007. Cabinet also directed the environment ministry, as well as the ministries of justice, safety and security, and urban and rural development to ensure that sand mining and extraction of other natural resources is done procedurally.

NGOs not convinced

The CEO of the Namibian Chamber of Environment (NCE), Dr Chris Brown, yesterday commended the suspension of the permits, but said his organisation would continue to request an independent, external investigation into the workings of the directorate of forestry in issuing the permits.

He said he would also direct the NCE's 62 non-governmental organisations in regions particularly affected by illegal logging, transport and trade of timber to monitor how the suspension directive is being implemented. Over the past 15 months the NCE has repeatedly requested a meeting with the forestry directorate and expressed grave concern over deforestation in the Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions.

It also expressed concern over the apparent lack of action by the forestry directorate and agriculture ministry.

The NCE had offered its expertise and financial support garnered from the private sector to assist the forestry directorate in areas where it might not have sufficient capacity, but its attempts at an engagement with the directorate and ministry went unanswered, Brown said.

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