Swaziland — The ministry of tourism and environmental affairs will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with South Africa on combating cross border fires. Principal Secretary, Lucy Dlamini announced yesterday that government was concerned at the rate of veld fires saying such fires were declared as a national disaster in 2007 and needed to be treated as such. She said the damage caused by forest fires affected the countrys Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as it destroyed forests which were key to the countrys economy. The ministry is concerned about the outbreak of fires in the country. Fires have destroyed lives, livestock, wild animals, vegetation, property and business, especially in the forest sector. This sector contributes significantly to the countrys GDP. The destruction of forest plantations by fire has caused some forest companies to close down and as a result a lot of people have lost their jobs she said. The PS added that wild fires were largely caused by negligence by smokers who threw cigarette buds through moving vehicles, bee hunters and natural catastrophes like lightening or fallen electricity lines. She further warned the public against starting fires saying if there was a need police, fire personnel and neighbours should be notified so that necessary precautions should be taken to prevent destruction of property and nature. The seriousness of the issue calls for everybody to look out for culprits who intentionally start these fires which cost government and investors millions of emalangeni to mitigate every year. Let us go back to the police slogan which says nawe uliphoyisa in order to win the battle against forest fires. As a way of mitigating this problem we have set up regional and area level fire prevention associations to assist in the prevention, control and management of fires she added. Also present during the press conference was Senior Forestry Officer Solomon Gamedze who also mentioned that the ministry was currently working on a bill which would be tabled in parliament so that harsh sentences could be passed on people who start forest fires.