Zimbabwe — The Zimbabwe Republic Police says it deeply concerned by the continued loss of life due to veld fires and have called on the public to act responsibly and stop unplanned burning.
Police reports say they are worried by the rate at which innocent people are dying in veld fires.
Police Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka cited a recent incident in which a 72 year old worker at Crosby farm, in Nyamandlovu set a fire to burn dry maize stalk but the fire ended up destroying 7 tonnes of fertiliser, 2 spraying machines, 20 goats and some homesteads.
Superintendent Mandipaka said the public should appreciate that uncontrolled fires pause a very serious danger to both flora and fauna, adding that starting veld fires is a criminal offence that is heavily punishable.
The environment is our heritage and we collectively need to protect it. The criminal tendency of deliberately starting veld fires should come to an end. We encourage people to establish vibrant anti- veld fires committees and work closely with the police and the Environmental Management Agency to stamp out this problem, said Superintendent Mandipaka.
Environmental Management Authority Board member Mr. Jerry Gotora also spoke strongly against uncontrolled burning.
He said apart from destroying peoples lives, fire destroys the ecosystem, soil structure, vegetation and nutrients which lead to deterioration of land resulting in soil erosion.
Uncontrolled fires have a number of effects on the environment and the ecosystem at large. Imagine all the small animals inherent and resident in the soil. They will be destroyed by the fires and people should stop and think before they start fires, noted Mr Gotora.
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Operations Manager responsible for conservation Vitalis Chadenga said, his organisation is concerned with the continued menace of veld fires that are killing wild animals from the smallest that crawl on the ground to antelopes.
I am greatly concerned that in a number of wildlife parks we have experienced uncontrolled fires that have killed hundreds of wild animals. The majority of fire outbreaks we have experienced are in Hwange game park. We urge the public to stop uncontrolled fires as they are robbing the present and future generations of wild life sanctuaries, he said.
As people continue to die in infernos, environmentalists have called on the government to enact legislation that will empower the courts to impose more deterrent sentences on perpetrators.
Currently a first class offence for starting a fire attracts more than 6 years in prison “The criminal tendency of deliberately starting fires should come to an end. We encourage people to establish vibrant anti-veld fires committees and work closely with the police and the Environmental Management Agency to stamp out this environmental problem,” he said.
Four family members recently lost their lives in a veld fire in Chishawasha. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has lost electricity equipment worth more than US$400 000 to veld fires and other uncontrolled fires, Zesa Holdings has said.