GOVERNMENT has with immediate effect lifted the suspension of the issuance and renewal of forest concession licences, Lands Minister Christabel Ngimbu has revealed.
And Ms Ngimbu said only Zambians would be issued with the forest concession licences to harvest or process timber in accordance with the provisions of the Forest Act of 2015.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday, Ms Ngimbu said following the issuance of Statutory Instrument No. 50 of 2016, the forest concession licence regulations, 2016, on 1st July, 2016, on the suspension of the issuance and renewal of forest concession licences were lifted. Ms Ngimbu said only registered timber merchants with the Forestry Department and holders of a timber merchant permit would be allowed to export timber, adding that all concession licences which were issued under the repealed Forest Act Chapter 199 of the laws of Zambia and still valid would be allowed to run until their expiry date. She said the ministry would advertise potential areas for concession licences in line with regulation 4 (2) of the Forest (Concession Licence) Regulations, 2016.
She also said the Ministry through the Forestry department would engage various stakeholders to clarify provisions in the new Forest (Concession Licence) Regulations.
Ms Ngimbu said the ministry would invite applications from interested individuals and organisations to apply for small, medium or large scale cutting, felling or processing of timber licences in the identified potential concession areas across the country. Ms Ngimbu has since advised the general public to access application forms which would be made available at the Forestry Department Head office in Lusaka and at all the provincial Forestry offices.
And Ms Ngimbu warned entities and individuals who were still involved in the illegal cutting of trees, transportation, trading and export of timber that they would face the full force of the law.
She disclosed that her ministry was aware that there were some dishonest entities and individuals who were promoting illegal timber activities in most parts of the country.
Ms Ngimbu stated that the ministry was committed to sustainable management of the forests, for the benefit of the current and future generations, hence it would continue to put in place appropriate measures including strengthening the capacity of the Forestry Department through the recruitment of forest range guards to ensure that the forests were protected.
Last year, Government through the Ministry of Lands suspended the issuance and renewal of Forest Concession Licences in accordance with the provisions of the Forest Act No.4 of 2015. This decision was to allow the ministry to develop new regulations in line with the new Forest Act.