Zimbabawe — According to information released by Manicaland Timber Growers and Producers Association, 19 000 hectares of timber were gutted by veld fires last year.
The timber was needed for local consumption as well as export, which could have racked in thousands of dollars in much needed foreign currency.
Chimanimani district was the worst affected by the veld fires. In interview with The Zimbabwean, MTGA representative, Nick Davies, said: Timber plays a critical role in the countrys social and economic transformation. Veld fires are, however, one of the greatest challenges of the timber industry in the province. We cant afford to fold our hands while the well being of the environment is destroyed. We have to work hard to educate our communities about the dangers of such fires.
Davies added that the fires had left a trail of destruction and ugly scenes on the landscapes of the province. He attributed the fires to illegal settlers in the plantations who are illegally clearing land for farming.
We urge the government, through the Environmental Management Agency, to severely punish the perpetrators for failing to observe statutory requirements of not causing veld fires, said Davies.
Under the environmental laws, any person who leaves a fire unattended and deliberately fails to extinguish it should be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of up to US$5 000 per hectare of land destroyed.