Trees Disappear as Eenergy Crisis Continues

BULAWAYO - Billowing smoke can be seen in broad daylight, but it is not because winter has arrived in Bulawayo's high-density suburbs.
Residents of this city of more than 2 million have trained themselves to use firewood as the country battles acute energy shortages with const

ant powercuts.
The power utility calls it load shedding, a strategy intended to save electricity, amid reports the country owes neighbouring countries supplying it million of United States dollars.
The Central Business District, the city’s commercial hub suddenly comes to a stand still as load shedding comes to town despite previous efforts by the power utility to spare industrial areas and other centres of commerce.
60-something year old Susan Chisale says firewood has become her lifeline, though she complains she still has to pay her monthly electricity bill to the power utility.
She stoops by the fireplace each morning to prepare food for her extended family, and she says this reminds her of days she spent as a child at her rural home.
“But what can we do,” she sighs as smoke assaults her old eyes.
Firewood has become the source of livelihood for many here as it has become the cheapest source of energy as many families cannot afford the previously cheaper alternative, paraffin.
But this commodity has also disappeared from service stations and now to be found for an arm and a leg in what is now referred as the black market where virtually all scarce commodities can be found.
As Zimbabwe’s energy woes continue stalking the country with the nation having learnt to live with daily powercuts, the environment has become the latest casualty with trees fast disappearing.
Families in urban areas have turned to firewood despite concerns by environmentalists that no trees are being planted for posterity.
With the country’s energy crisis in full swing, families have turned to firewood, as many here cannot afford alternative but expensive fuels like gas stoves.
Mrs Chisale is one among millions here who have turned to trees for survival, but Portia Mdumbu of Environment 2000, an environment watchdog here, says this has been at a huge cost to the environment.
Ms Mdumbu says trees in urban areas are fast disappearing as families cannot afford paraffin with many also not able to afford what are popularly known here as primus stoves which use paraffin.
She says though conservation of natural resources has always been emphasised by environmentalists and other concerned groups, this has become difficult as families have little or no choice in the absence of electricity.
Her sentiments were echoed by Bulawayo City Council spokesman Mr Pathisa Nyathi who says though the council has by-laws which seek to protect the environment, this has become difficult to enforce considering the continuing power shortages.
Titus Mlotshwa sells firewood outside a council beerhall. He says he gets this vital source of energy which has found ready buyers with urban residents from a farm along Gwanda Road just outside Bulawayo.
He says this farm, occupied by veterans of the liberation war during the height of the farm invasions, has seen trees dwindling as demand has grown in urban areas.
Zimbabwe faces an unprecedented major energy crisis as the country’s foreign currency crunch and recession now into its seventh year continues stalking the country.
Meanwhile, the country’s ministry of environment is yet to come out in the open with any position on the conservation of natural resources as deforestation threatens to leave large tracts of unprotected earth across the country.
Each year on the first Saturday of December, the country observes National Tree Planting Day, but during the course of the year there has not been any emphasis from the authorities, though the parastatal Forestry Commission proclaims that trees are life.

Post published in: Opinions

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