Veld fires remain a great environmental challenge, triggering unprecedented harm to Zimbabwe’s natural resources, forests, animal habitat — sometimes leading to the loss of life and property.
Government has enacted several laws aimed at preventing fires, such as the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) of 2007, the Parks and Wildlife Act (Chapter 20:14) of 1996, the Forests Act (Chapter 19:05) of 1996, and the Traditional Leaders Act of 1998.
Despite these initiatives, veld fires continue to threaten the bio-physical, social and economic environment because of their trail of destruction and direct impact on all sectors of the economy.
This has seen the Environmental Management Agency join hands with the Zimbabwe Republic Police to combat veld fires this coming dry season.
The dry season in Zimbabwe is favoured by weather conditions that abet the spread of fires, such as strong winds, high temperatures and arid conditions.
Now, EMA and the ZRP are running a veld fire management competition, where a police station and one officer will be awarded a prize for carrying out the best veld fire awareness programmes, as well as handling successful prosecutions.
EMA spokesperson Mr Steady Kangata said, “We are running a programme with ZRP to lessen veld fires and there are prizes to be won at police station level and at a police officer’s level. The aim is to reduce veld fires by 10 percent until we get to a point where veld fires are within sustainable levels. Last year we reduced veld fires by 9,1 percent.”
From 2013 to 2015, 4 343 438 hectares of land were lost to veld fires; while 88 veld fire-related deaths were recorded between 2009 and 2015.
Last year alone, 1 510 342ha of land were destroyed by fire.
Mr Kangata said the most affected areas, which therefore needed greater attention, were those that usually received good rainfall and had good soils, such as farming regions one and two, and parts of Mashonaland West and Central.
He added that veld fires were a threat to national food security.
“Veld fires cannot be divorced from farming as they lead to crop and animal losses as well as human lives,” he said.
EMA has urged citizens, especially those in vulnerable areas, to take precautionary measures like fireguards.
“Research by the agency over the years revealed that most veld fires are human induced, resulting from activities such as land clearing, hunting, smoking of bees for honey harvesting, arson, illegal mining and poaching.”
Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007 — Environmental Management (Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection) Regulations — states that: “It is the duty of the land user, owner, or designated authority to put in place fire prevention measures in the form of standard fireguards.
“No person shall deliberately cause a fire outside residential or commercial premises during the period between July 31 to October 31 each year;
“The land user, owner, farmer, lessee or designated authority is responsible for extinguishing all fires on their property regardless of the origin of the fire; and
“In the case of a fire outbreak any person within the vicinity of the fire other than the user or the owner of that land must extinguish the fire.”
Citizens have to pay US$5 000 for starting a fire which they fail to extinguish, per every hectare burnt, and the same fine for failure to report a fire within seven days.
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