OVER 250 hectares of grazing land were destroyed by veld fire last week in Hwedza communal area, which was ignited by a villager who has since been arrested.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Mashonaland East provincial natural resources officer Mr Robson Mavondo confirmed the ecological disaster and subsequent arrest of a villager suspected to have started the fire.
“I can confirm that police have arrested a suspect who started the fire which destroyed more than 250 hectares of vegetation.
“The suspect is to face charges of contravening the Forest Act and failing to give notice of intention to burn standing vegetation,” he said.
Mr Mavondo lamented that the current $250 000 ($250) fine per hectare for causing a fire was not deterrent enough.
“For destruction of a massive 250 hectares of vegetation, the suspect will escape with a $62 million ($62 000) fine or an imprisonment not exceeding 2 years.
“That we believe is not deterrent enough considering the bio-diversity loss,” said Mr Mavondo.
He said his department was concerned about uncontrolled fires that have also been causing destruction of property.
A couple of weeks ago, four hectares of unharvested maize with an approximate yield of 10 tonnes went up in smoke at Mukuti Farm in Marondera after a farmer at Surrey failed to control fire while burning a clearing in his garden.
“During the same month of July, about 15 hectares of vegetation were destroyed at Luckhill Farm when a motorist who had a breakdown left a fire burning after he had lit it to keep warm.
“Two hectares of vegetation were destroyed in Masomera communal area from a fire started by embers blown from a dump site in the village,” said Mr Mavondo.
There was also extensive destruction of vegetation by fire at Imire Game Park and Fair Adventure farm in Hwedza.
According to Section 67 of the Forest Act, no person is allowed to burn growing or standing vegetation on any land except when granted permission by EMA and all the occupiers of surrounding land.