Zimbabwe — At least 15 people, most of them children, were burnt to death in veld fires that destroyed about one million hectares of land nationwide since the fire season started three months ago.
According to a Environmental Management Agency report released on Monday, veld fires destroyed property worth more than US$200 000.
“Plantations and infrastructure were destroyed and these include citrus plantations in Mashonaland Central and West, seed maize and Zesa power pylons,” reads the report in part.
The report revealed Matopos National Museum and Matopos Motel were gutted by veld fire.
The fire also gutted down Old Bulawayo King Lobengulas capital and more than 25 families were left homeless in Mashonaland West Province.
Environmentalists have blamed poor farming practices on the significant increase of people killed, infrastructure damage and the hectares destroyed by veld fires.
EMA director of environmental protection Mr Aaron Chigona said: “This fire season has seen about 2503 fire incidences recorded and as an organisation we are concerned.”
EMA and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management have intensified the fight against veld fires.
In an interview yesterday, EMA education and publicity manager Mr Steady Kangata said: “Children and the elderly were mainly affected by the veld fires and this year we have also witnessed the death of 20 elephants, six cattle and at least four donkeys.”
According to the report, 470 fire awareness campaigns were held sine July.
It added that police, and traditional and magistrates courts handled over 142 cases of suspected arson.
“The agency is currently arresting landowners that have not put in place adequate fire suppression measures and we are prosecuting institutions,” the report said.
Mashonaland West Province recorded the highest number of fire incidences followed by Mashonaland East.
“The least fire incidences were recorded in urban areas and Harare and Bulawayo recorded the least.”
The environmental watchdog said rural Masvingo had the least fire incidences because the local leadership and community worked well on the matter.
Mr Kangata urged farmers to come up with firefighting teams and to approach EMA or the Environment Ministry for training and equipment.
Traditional leaders have the power to punish fire offenders.