In a move designed to curb further environmental degradation, Tanzania has ordered the eviction of pastoralists from forests and banned the use of thin plastic bags.

In a weekend address to the nation, Vice-President Ali Sheni blamed the East Africa nation's deteriorating environment on destructive and unchecked human activity. "Human activities such as reckless tree felling, use of plastic bags, uncontrolled cattle grazing, invasion of reserved forest areas and mountains are some of the causes of extensive environmental degradation," Sheni said.

Tanzania has more than 16-million head of cattle, according to government statistics, and pastoralists move them with from one place to another in search of pasture, leading to massive environmental degradation.

He directed herders who had invaded and settled in game reserves and valleys to leave the places immediately. Sheni also ordered forest settlers, including those who have invaded hills and mountain ranges in eastern and central Tanzania's Eastern Arc as well as Mount Kilimanjaro to vacate the areas.

Tobacco and tea farmers as well as other major users of trees as a source of energy have been directed to start their own tree plantations. The vice-president said damaged forests should be replenished by the planting of no fewer than 1,5-million trees annually.

"This order does not spare the military, schools, educational institutions and industries," Sheni said, adding that "Every institution should make sure it has a seedling in place by January 2007."

In addition, he urged industrialists to shift from manufacturing plastic shopping bags to paper bags and banned the production and use of thin plastic bags.

"The manufacturing, importing, buying and use of plastic bags of 30 and 65 microns thickness is now prohibited," he said. He also said that small-scale miners who invaded various areas in pursuit of gems and other prestigious stones were also in the list of notorious culprits of environmental degradation. "They should leave the areas within three months," he said.