Pugu forest with an area of 2410 hectares is located 32 kilometers west of Dar es Salaam city. This forest was gazzeted as a Forest reserve since 1947 according to National Forest Act page number 132. Pugu forest is endowed with tree species known in vernacular name Mpugupugu that form the source of the name of Pugu forest and the name of Pugu secondary school. Currently the forest is under threat of degradation due to tree cutting, charcoal burning and gravel mining taking place in the forest.
On 13th May 2009 Young Environmentalist Trainees from WWF Tanzania Programme Office, visited the forest to realize the condition of the forest in relation to the threats it faces. In conversation with Vijana Vision Tanzanian organization that is dealing with environmental conservation located in Kisarawe and the gravel miners in the forest they told us that the source of gravel mining in Pugu forest was the sand miners who mined sand from the area for the purpose of road construction. According to them, the government permitted the road constructors mining activities at the area. After they had done with their sand mining activities they did not restore the area to its normal condition. The left mining hole attracted gravel miners who invaded the area for commercial gravel mining in fight of poverty that is facing them.
Currently after the government has realized the destruction of Pugu forest as a result of sand and gravel mining, it is in the process of removing the gravel miners by reallocating them to another area. The question to be asked here is that, how comes now that the government see the gravel miners as degraders of the forest? Does it mean that the government was blind of this threat to the forest when it allowed sand miners? Or was it poor understanding of the interaction of infrastructure development and carbon rich forest ecosystem that is frequently articulated in very general term because of being critical to national economic growth hence undermining protection and conservation of forest resources? According to the settings surrounding this problem, it seems as if the activity was contrary to section 18(1) of Environmental Management Act number 20 of 2004 that require an Environmental Impact Assessment for any activity that go contrary to the nature of any particular area. According to section 102(1) of this act any developer or some one undertaking any activity that go contrary to the nature of the area should restore the environmental of that area after ending his or her activity on that area. This involves the removal of all equipments used, rehabilitation of the area and restoration of an ecological system that used to exist before the activity has taken place. But this was not done as after sand miners had left the place, the area were not restored that led the left holes to attract gravel miners who are current working at the area.
Once we are now pointing fingers to gravel miners as Pugu forest degraders, the government should also be responsible in implementation of different Regulations, Laws and Programmes that guide the management and conservation of environmental and natural resource in general. If the government will not be the leader in implementation and adhering to its laws and regulations, it will be difficulty for the local people in communal areas to do the same as most of them either do not know these regulations or they might have heard of them but without them. Accountability of the natural resource officers and other relevant officers in management of natural resource and protection of environment will ease the whole task of environment protection and natural resource management as far as participatory natural resource management is concern. People living adjacent to Pugu forest continuing blaming the government for unsatisfied management of Pugu forest, will hinder the process of management of this forest by taking into consideration that we are in the participatory management paradigm.
Apart from gravel mining that threatens the survival of Pugu forest, this forest is also threatened by an alarming escalating tree cutting and charcoal burning that has come into place after the expansion of charcoal market in Dar es Salaam city. According to Mr. Obedi Mahenda, the director of Vijana Vision Tanzania, Kisarawe Village in their effort to rescue Pugu Forest through its Chairman Mr. Ally Said Mwiru had requested the government by writing to Kisarawe District Council to manage Pugu Forest in the last three years as stipulated in the National Forest Policy on participatory Forest Management by following all obligations guiding PFM but they could not get an answer from the higher authority. He said after contacting the District officer responsible with management of Forest and Natural resources, the officer told him that they forwarded the letter to the ministry but the ministry has failed to allow it due to cost benefit sharing conflict that is existing between the government and the one who will be managing the forest, here I mean the village governments adjacent to Pugu forest.
I would like to advice that let us use the existing opportunity of community readiness in management of natural resource and environmental in general since if the community is not ready, the management of natural resource will be difficulty to push it through. The readiness of Kisarawe community in management of Pugu Forest is a great opportunity to use in participatory Pugu forest management that will rescue the forest from all threats it faces. Also in the process of reallocating the gravel miners I advice the government to harmonies the situation by having a consensus of all stakeholders in order to avoid conflicts that my lead to breakage of peace at the area and environment destruction that we all aim at conserving. In this I also argue to the government, its organizations and non-governmental organization dealing with environmental conservation to let people know what to do in order to protect their environment and manage well their natural resource. “If we all join our effort we can protect our environment and manage well our natural resource for our development without compromising the future development needs”