Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe has lost nearly 200 000 hectares of vegetation to veld fires over the past month, the Environmental Management Authority has said.
The Environment and Natural Resources Management Ministry has consequently intensified efforts to raise public awareness of the dangers of uncontrolled fires.
In an interview yesterday, EMA spokesperson Mr Steady Kangata said many parts of Zimbabwe had been affected since the start of the fire season three months ago.
“The veld fires are not slowing despite intensified efforts by Government to raise awareness on the effects of these fires.
“Although the figures are not complete, I would like to put the total area that has been consumed by fire at between 180 000 and 200 000 hectares.
“The problem of veld fires is worst in resettlement areas where co-ordination efforts are still difficult,” he said.
Environment Minister Francis Nhema has in recent months toured Zimbabwes districts to enhance veld fire awareness programmes.
The tour will cover all districts.
Government has also introduced a public speaking competition for schoolchildren to highlight conservation issues.
Government has pegged the fine for starting a fire at US$5 000 and US$500 for failing to come up with fire suppression measures like fireguards.
Minister Nhema last week said: “We have also given traditional leadership authority to fine up to a cow to those found guilty of starting veld fires.
“It does not make sense for farmers to say they do not have the machinery to construct the fireguards.
“There are cheap ways of making and constructing fireguards, as whatever they use for ploughing can still be use to construct these guards.”
Minister Nhema said failing to give assistance in the event of a fire outbreak would be regarded as complicity and punishable with a fine since it was every citizens responsibility to protect the environment.
He urged farmers to come up with fire fighting teams and approach EMA or the ministry for training and equipment.
Veld fires have already claimed the lives of six people and 18 elephants in the last three weeks.
Ten people died in veld fires between January and October 2009.