One of the most positive changes of direction the new Tanzanian government under President John Magufuli has taken, is a new determination to come down hard on poaching and more recently to tackle the alarming deforestation across the country and its key water towers.
Under the former regime it clearly was a free for if not all at least a free for the connected few, as scandals unearthed by the new administration at the port and the Tanzania Revenue Authority go to prove. Again, action taken was swift and decisive and is ongoing as customs duty and tax defaulters now literally fall over themselves to pay up what they owe.
The Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Hon. Ramo Makani, last week opened a one day high level meeting for the forestry sector and left no doubt which way the Magufuli administration will go.
He admitted that over 370.000 acres of forest are lost every year and that the demand timber and charcoal production exceeded sustainable production by over 20 million cubic metres of trees.
It is understood from usually well informed sources that the government is mulling over a temporary suspension of logging to take stock and decide on the way forward.
Conservationists in recent years were alarmed when the Kikwete regime suddenly withdrew an application to UNESCO to recognize the Eastern Arc Mountains as a World Heritage Site, suspecting regime cronies to be behind the presidential directive at the time, so that they could fill their pockets by mining and logging the forests with impunity.
Last year did the World Wide Fund for Nature, in short WWF, paint a grim picture of the devastation this presidential directive had wreaked on the Eastern Arc Mountains, but of course has both legal and illegal logging eaten deeply into other forest areas. This has been seen as to a large part responsible for the change in micro climate, flash floods and other environmental disasters due to the loss of forest cover.
The new direction in conservation and environmental protection issues is commendable and here, as in other areas, has the Magufuli administration until now shown that it means business and is not shy to step hard on the toes of those who previously thought of themselves as untouchable.