Zimbabwe: AT least 21 people were killed countrywide in veld fires last year, with Mashonaland Central province topping the list of fatalities.
Ten victims were hospitalised with serious burns of varying degrees. An average 96 691 hectares of land per province were burnt in 2010 fire year compared to 2009 that had an average 95091 hectares.
According to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) statistics, Bulawayo, Manicaland, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces lost less hectarage of land to fires in 2010 compared to 2009 statistics.
Mashonaland West suffered the least. Various types of infrastructure were damaged countrywide. These include 61 huts, forestry plantations in Manicaland province and citrus orchards in Mashonaland Central. Mashonaland West province lost US$338 500 worth of seed maize.
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority lost poles valued at US$205 000. Matopo National Museum was gutted down by fire and Debshan Farm in Shangani lost 20 elephants and US$7 000 worth of property last year.
According to EMA, most of the fires were caused by human activities. Uncontrolled fires are used as hunting techniques as well as in gold panning. Another reason for burning forests was for land preparation for agricultural activities.
EMA said it was working with the police, Forestry Commission, courts and other Government departments to curb veld fires.
A total 140 fire related cases were handled by the magistrates’ courts, while another 29 was dealt with by traditional courts.
More Environmental monitors should be identified for each ward and trained to ensure effective communication.
During awareness programmes, there is need to emphasise how much impact veld fires have on the ecosystem, how fires have caused land degradation, soil erosion and killed innocent people and animals.