By Matabeleland North Correspondent
CONCERNS have been raised over massive cutting down of trees at the Victoria Falls National Park for firewood by residents who have been rendered jobless due to Covid-19 and can no longer afford monthly electricity bills.
Many have resorted to using power for lighting and powering household electrical gadgets only while using gas, firewood, and charcoal for cooking.
However, the high cost of cooking gas has seen a lot of residents opting for firewood and charcoal instead.
Gas is pegged at between US$1,10 and US$2 per kg.
A 5kg packet of charcoal costs US$1.
Residents of new ZB houses in the Bafour Zone are yet to be connected to the electricity grid and use solar systems for lighting.
With winter upon the usually hot resort town, residents have invaded the national park where they are not only cutting dry wood but felling down big trees and threatening the town’s pristine world heritage state.
Anti-poaching teams, including rangers and Victoria Falls Municipal police last Friday and Saturday responded by raiding some of the firewood poachers who, however, fled leaving behind their axes.
Because of fear of wild animals, poachers cut trees closer to the Victoria Falls-Kazungula highway oblivious of the way they are destroying the vegetation that draws tourists for on the road game drives.
Local Ward 11 councillor Edmore Zhou Saturday warned residents found poaching that they will be severely punished.
“We are worried about people cutting down trees on the Bafour Zone along Kazungula road. Zimparks, police and council will soon punish poachers,” said Zhou.
“We have to guard our vegetation as we are the face of Zimbabwe. Heavy penalties are on the way so stay away from destroying our trees.”
However, he courted the ire of residents who said before punishing them, authorities should find ways of addressing widespread hunger in the town.
The residents complained of not benefiting from natural resources around them with only authorities sharing profits among themselves.
They cited a recent incident in which rangers killed and skinned a problem elephant and shared the meat at night without any resident benefiting.
“We are not saying wood poaching is good but we have to address the cause. People are suffering hence something must be down,” a resident said.
Some suggested that Zimparks and the Forestry Commission allow residents to enter the forest once a week to harvest dry wood under supervision.