DARE-ES-SALAAM, The Tanzanian government has directed its institutions to immediately start phasing out the use of charcoal as a cooking fuel in order to protect the environment, says Minister of State for Union and Environment Affairs January Makamba.

The Minister says the institutions which have been directed to start implementing the directive include prisons, hospitals, military camps and schools. The directive is part of the wider roadmap which the government is in the process of drafting to phase out the use of charcoal across the country.

Makamba told a medica conference here Wednesday that his office had already written to the institutions directing them to inform tenderers bidding to supply charcoal about the government decision which is aimed at slowing down the rate of felling of trees in the country.

The institutions concerned are now required to switch to using gas instead of charcoal after the expiry of the existing contracts.

The Minister explained that surveys and research show that the pace at which deforestation is occurring in Tanzania as a result of charcoal burning is "appalling" and that unless the government takes affirmative action to reverse the trend, the situation will worsen.

He said that in order to facilitate the switch to gas, the Ministry had held talks with stakeholders, producers and distributors of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPGs) who have agreed to install gas storage facilities and gas cookers in the institutions concerned at no cost to the government.

He added that an analysis on comparative advantages carried out by his office had established that the use of gas was cheaper and would enable the institutions to make savings in their expenditures.