Zimbabwe — SIXTEEN people died this year as a result of uncontrolled veld fires, a number that trebles that of last year while the nation continues to lose revenue as an unrecorded number of domestic and wild animals are killed yearly and millions of hectares of land are destroyed.
According to statistics released by the Environment Management Agency (EMA) at their exhibition stand at the 13th Zanu-PF Annual National Peoples Conference in Gweru last week, the country continues to lose lives to uncontrolled fires as 16 people were killed while 1,3 million hectares of land were destroyed in 9 730 recorded fire incidences.
The figures show a sharp increase from those of last year where five deaths were recorded while 713 770 hectares of land were destroyed in 6 780 fire incidences.
This is despite the nationwide awareness campaigns that were conducted by EMA to enlighten the communities especially in resettlement areas on the ills of starting uncontrolled fires as a means of clearing land.
The figures, however, showed that 2010 was the worst as the year recorded 25 deaths, 9 361 fire incidences while 1 152 413 hectares of land were destroyed, a number slightly less than that recorded this year.
Midlands Province Environmental Education and Publicity Officer Mr Timothy Nyoka told the Sunday News that it was worrying that with all the efforts to educate people at national and community levels the figures were still not very encouraging.
He said EMA was working with traditional leaders as it was upping its efforts to ensure that no deaths were recorded due to uncontrolled veld fires.
He said resettlement areas were the major contributors with A1 and A2 farmers on the list of people who start veld fires and urged the farmers to explore other ways of clearing land other than that of starting fires that they have no capacity to control and put off.
Mr Nyoka said it was crucial for farmers when starting fires to notify their neighbours, EMA, Forestry Commission and the police for necessary precautionary measures to be taken and for assistance if necessary in the event that the fire goes wild.
The figures that we recorded this year are not very encouraging compared to those of last year. We lost 16 lives and last year five people were killed in incidences of veld fires. It is therefore quite unfortunate that despite all the efforts that we are putting in terms of educating people we continue having treble figures of deaths as if nothing is being done.
As EMA we have engaged the traditional leaders where we have been encouraging them to form environmental sub-committees. We are also engaging in joint operations with the police and Rural District Councils to enhance active participation of all the members in the communities and ensure that local conservation by-laws are adhered to.
Although the main reason for starting veld fires is the need to clear farming land especially in resettlement areas, some of the reasons are quite archaic, like someone will tell you they wanted to kill an animal or a snake. Some do it to refresh their pastures especially those in cattle areas but in most cases it negatively impacts on them in the event they fail to control the fire and it destroys pastures, he added.
He said as EMA they had been providing seedlings to schools, establishing environmental clubs, encouraging gully reclamation as well as promoting environmental competitions in schools as a way of educating the communities on the ills of starting veld fires and encouraging friendly environmental strategies. The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.