RECURRENT power cuts and the recent steep tariff hikes have accelerated the deforestation of Victoria Falls’ two major game parks as residents poach firewood, a cheaper substitute to electricity, community leaders have said.
The situation is feared to have ripple effects on the tourism sector, thereby affecting revenue inflows to council and safari operators.
The resort town is surrounded by two parks, Chamabondo to the east and the Victoria Falls Game Park to the west, which are popular for game drives.
However, the two parks are now under threat as residents have resorted to uncontrolled tree-cutting.
Victoria Falls, like most other towns, has been hit hard by endless power cuts lasting up to eight hours.
The situation in the resort town is worrying community leaders and safari operators as the continued cutting of trees in the game parks threatens the town’s mainstay – tourism.
Victoria Falls Residents Association chairperson, Morgan Gaza Dube yesterday said the rate at which the parks were being deforested was cause for concern.
“There has been rampant deforestation of the games parks as residents seek firewood. Actually, the failure to provide electricity by the power utility has already accelerated deforestation. This has been coupled by the recent hike in tariffs and it’s worrisome,” Dube said.
His sentiments were echoed by ward 6 councillor, Ephias Mambume (MDC Alliance), who said underfunding of anti-poaching interventions had not saved the situation.
“The current load-shedding plus the proposed limits will only exacerbate the already dire situation, where residents are depending on wood as a source of energy for cooking. This is also coupled by the fact that anti-poaching interventions were severely underfunded. Victoria Falls game parks will inevitably be affected as people poach for firewood,” Mambume said.