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Tanzania considers tax on charcoal to save forests



Tanzania is considering putting a tax on charcoal with the aim of discouraging the use of the fuel, which is a big source of energy for cooking but also a major contributor to deforestation.

Officials say they believe making charcoal more expensive would significantly reduce demand for it and cut runaway tree felling in the east African nation.

Justus Ntalikwa, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the government hopes to present a bill in the next parliament in February to put in place the levy, with funds raised going to finance reforestation activities in district councils.

“The idea is to reduce destruction of forests,” Ntalikwa said. However, putting such a levy in place may be a complicated process because it involves a range of authorities, he said.

Under the government plan, anyone who sells charcoal within one of the country’s districts or exports charcoal from it would pay a tax of about 30,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $11) on each 90 kg bag of the fuel.

The proposed tax, which will be subject to parliamentary approval, would be payable at checkpoints set up in each district.

In Tanzania, more than 370,000 hectares (915,000 acres) of forests are being cut every year, a significant portion of it for fuel, according to Tanzania Forests Services Agency, a government agency responsible for monitoring the country’s forestry activities.

Jumanne Maghembe, the minister of Tourism and Natural Resources, said in December that cutting wood for charcoal needs to stop because it spurs desertification.

“I think if we impose a hefty levy on charcoal its price will go up remarkably and fewer people will be attracted to cut down trees to sell charcoal. By doing so we will be saving our forests,” he said.

According to Maghembe, if the government makes charcoal more expensive it would simultaneously promote the use of alternative fuels, including liquefied petroleum.

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