Veld fires ravage 11million hectares

          Veld fires ravage 11million hectares

16 March 2009

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Botawana — About 11 million hectares of land were ravaged by fires that erupted countrywide, according to a report from the Department of Forestry and Land Resources.

Speaking during a workshop on the Kweneng District’s fire contingency management plan, Ms Anja Hoffmann, a fire specialist said Ghanzi District was the most affected followed by Ngamiland, Kweneng and Central.

Ms Hoffmann said the game reserves were badly affected followed by pastoral land, wildlife management and communal areas. She indicated that 3.6 million of the game reserve land countrywide was burnt.

She said the rate at which the fires engulf the land is determined by the amount of rainfall received in that particular year.

If rainfall is high it would mean that grass would significantly grow and the bush area would be thicker making it possible for the fires to travel fast once there is an outbreak and to quickly engulf large chunks of land.

She said in 2006, only five million hectares were affected and in 2007, this number dropped to three million.

The fact that the amount of land ravaged in 2008 was substantially high is indicative of the heavy rainfall attracted in the country in that particular year, she said.

Therefore, she said, Batswana should be prepared to extinguish more fires this year than was the case in the previous year because of the heavier rainy season that was lately experienced in the country.

She also advised the people to make arrangements to protect the vegetation from the effect of the fires stating that human practices are the main cause of the outbreak of fires in the country.

Therefore, people can work to ensure that the effects of the fires are minimal. She said fires could lead to a situation in which drought would set in if there are no more generous rains in the future, something that would negatively impact on the cattle industry and even the survival of wildlife.

Ms Hoffmann said incessant fires in the forested area could lead to a decline in forest cover and the Savannah conditions would dominate in the previously forest areas and would affect wildlife and the tourism industry.

She pointed out that the lingering fires in the communal areas would lead to shift in grass species composition and a decline in the carrying capacity of the land.

She also indicated that wild fires affect the economy negatively as manpower and equipments are required to suppress the fires. The cost implications also cover such items as food, transport and wages.

For his part, Mr Maeletso Pego, Logistics and Communication Officer from the National Disaster Management office said communities should be encouraged to create firebreaks around their fields, kraals, ranches and water points.

Mr Pego said communities should uphold the spirit of voluntarism in as far as fire suppression is concerned adding, “disaster risk reduction is everybody’s business”.

He said that district disaster management committee must create zones within the district ranging from the most vulnerable to the least vulnerable areas to ensure that fire could be easily suppressed.

He also said district management committee should intensify public awareness campaigns in the most vulnerable areas of the district to ensure that such communities are aware of how to suppress fire and which effective methods could be adopted.

The main purpose of the workshop was to come up with district fire contingency plan, which would guide the fire fighters and the district at large to cost effectively and timely mobilize the fire suppression methods and how to effectively use resources from the government and non-governmental organizations in the event of wild land fire.

This plan would also ensure that the spirit of cooperation and integration is enhanced among the government and nongovernmental organizations in the event of large-scale wild land fire outbreak in the district.

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