Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is rolling out a number of initiatives countrywide to minimise the effects of veld fires which have become a perennial environmental headache.
In a statement yesterday, the organisation’s Environmental Education and Publicity manager, Ms Amkela Sidanke, said the quest to preserve and maintain a safe environment needed collective efforts.
She said they had roped in a number of stakeholders, among them traditional leaders, in their bid to reduce veld fires during the 2019 fire season.
Ms Sidanke said the fire season runs from July 31 to October 31 yearly.
“It is unfortunate that the country has since lost 407 802.18 hectares from 1 416 fire incidences as at 30 July 2019, which is before the onset of the fire season,” she said.
“Mashonaland West province suffered the highest loss of 241 420.13 hectares from 713 fire incidences, followed by Mashonaland Central at 52 830 hectares from 62 fire incidences.
“During the same period last year, 289 809.81 hectares were lost to veld fires. Veld fires have become one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, causing so much destruction to Zimbabwe’s natural resources, property and human life.
“This environmental phenomena has also impacted on the economic growth of our country where property, infrastructure, crops, plantations and pastures worth millions of dollars are destroyed by veld fires, compromising the nation’s food basket, security and nutrition status”.
Ms Sidanke said since 2005, the country has lost 122 lives, with eight of these meeting their demise in 2018.
She said some of the programmes EMA was rolling out include construction of fire guards, law enforcement, awareness campaigns, bee farming projects, drawing up fire management plans from village level, fire risk assessment and hay bailing/thatch grass combing projects among others.
Ms Sidanke added that some of the drivers of veld fires were early drying of the veld, suppressed rains in the 2018/19 rainy season and general shifts in seasons associated with climate change.
“We have been hard on the ground in terms of law enforcement. 64 orders were served to landowners (individual and communities) as at 30 June 2019 to remind them to construct fireguards before the onset of the rainy season.
“In addition, there is a need for all landowners to take precautions during this fire season to prevent veld fires which for years now have continued to negatively impact on our socio-economic and biophysical realms,” said Ms Sidanke.
She said it was important for landowners to ensure their properties are protected from veld fires with standard fireguards.
Ms Sidanke said communities should have fire fighting teams at village or farm level and always keep ready fire fighting equipment to extinguish fires, be alert for fire outbreaks and participate in extinguishing fires.
She said the current fire situation was medium (65.6%), high (24.8%) and extreme risk (4.04%).
“Traditional leaders remain our esteemed gatekeepers and thus should enforce the Traditional Leaders Act on those who start fires; and in the general management of our natural resources,” Ms Sidanke said.