Botswana — Veld fires that recently engulfed the Boteti Sub-District affectedan area of about 523 300 hectares, says the Minister of Environment, Wildlifeand Tourism, Mr Kitso Mokaila.
He said the causes of the fires originated around settlements and that humanactivity is assumed to have been the cause. However we have not been able toidentify the culprits, Mr Mokaila told Parliament.
He said the distance between existing fire breaks in the sub-district rangesfrom 30km to 95km.
He added that at the time of the outbreak, these firebreaks were still beingmaintained but that they are now complete.
To counteract the recurrence of these fires, the Department of Forestry andRange Resources has developed proactive strategic fire management measures suchas timely fire break maintenance.
He said preparations for award of tenders for maintenance of breaks would bemade before the beginning of the 2007/08 financial year so that tenders could beawarded before the start of the fire season around May.
Mr Mokaila said this would ensure maintenance of firebreaks before the fireseason starts.
He said another measure is remote sensing and early warning on fires. TheDepartment of Forestry and Range Resources now receives daily satellite data onfire outbreaks around the country, he said, adding that this would facilitateearly detection of fires and mobilisation for their containment.
Mr Mokaila further said a proposal has been put before Cabinet to make itmandatory for concessionaires to take responsibility for fire management intheir concession areas.
The ministry, he said, has forged strategic alliance with the BotswanaDefence Force and Botswana Police Service to assist with manpower and equipmentsuch as aerial flights to suppress fires.
Mr Mokaila also said his ministry is in the process of resuscitating DistrictFire Management Contingency Plans with a view to strengthen the authority of theDistrict Commissioners to have command and control powers to mobilise resourcesin the areas of fire suppression.
We are also investigating the possibility of using an airborne fire fightingsystem for suppression of veld fires, said Mr Mokaila.
Mr Mokaila was answering a question from MP for Boteti North, Mr SlumberTsogwane, who had requested for an appraisal on the catastrophe caused by veldfires in the Boteti Sub-District recently.
He had also wanted to know the cause of the fire, the area affected, thedistance between existing firebreaks and their condition as well as whatmeasures were in place to avoid the recurrence of these fires.