Shocking levels of deforestation in Zomba and Machinga have alarmed authorities who have since embarked on a massive reforestation drive.
Machinga District Forest Officer, Paul Muhosha said residents in the two districts cut 1 million trees in Zomba-Malosa and Liwonde forest reserves every year.
He said Machinga intends to plant 2 million seedlings this forestry season as illegal charcoal production and illegal timber production are the common factors leading to increased deforestation in the reserves.
Zomba Malosa forest reserve is about 2,800 square kilometres while Liwonde forest reserve is 24,351 square kilometres and both have waters sources for schemes.
To stop further deforestation, the district forestry office carry out law enforcement that involves the police and sometimes Liwonde National Park personnel to confiscate charcoal, fire wood, poles and timber from sellers and illegal producers.
The Forestry Office implemented a forest co- management program which empowered communities around Zomba-Malosa and Liwonde reserves to sustainably manage forest blocks but deforestation continued despite the interventions.
Over the years, many people have been arrested, convicted and sentenced after being found in possession of forest produce such as charcoal, firewood and timber without license or permit thus contrary to Section 64 of the Forest Act.
District Water Development Officer for Machinga, Steve Meja said deforestation is a threat to the gravity fed water supply system unless if put under control otherwise the deforestation is gradually shifting towards the intakes of the schemes.
A lot of sensitization has taken place on the dangers of encroaching, cultivation in the forest reserves and production of charcoal in the two districts.