Botswana– The North West District has launched a bushfire risk management plan aimed at reducing the number of human-induced bush fires that cause damage to life, property and the environment.
The five-year plan involves identifying the level of risk posed by bush fires to assets and establishing strategies to protect the assets from the bush fires.
Speaking at an event to launch and hand over the plan to the North West District commissioner, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Mr Elias Magosi said the plan was an important milestone for the district and the country in the management of fires.
He said his ministry was dealing with issues of bush fires and climate change, adding that they were in the process of signing an agreement which would outline the mitigation measures in place.
He commended the district for developing a document, noting that many countries come here to benchmark on best practices.
Mr Magosi urged the committee to start implementing the plan as the district was surrounded by the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and Makgadikgadi National Park.
He noted that people have the power to create bush fires and to stop them, adding that some could not manage to control fires and said the development of the risk management plan would assist to establish strategies to address bush fire hazards, the vulnerability of assets to fire, the safety of the community and the protection of land and the environment.
He said the plan would protect the community and its valuables from the adverse effects of wildfires.
He called on the committee to embark on public education so as to sensitise the community on how they could prevent bush fires in the district.
Giving an overview of the plan, the deputy director from Department of Forestry and Range Resources, Mr Jeremiah Moeng said Ngamiland was the best district to launch the plan as it was heavily affected by bush fires because of the Okavango Delta. He added that it was also adjacent to the CKGR and national parks.
Historically, he said the district experienced millions of hectares of burnt land, dead animals and destroyed ranches and hoped that the plan would be an answer to that. Mr Moeng also explained that all relevant stakeholders were involved during the development of the plan, and stated that they would be taken on board during the implementation to assist in identifying assets and risks.
In addition, he pointed out that the district was proud to have more than one heritage site hence the need to protect and maintain their value. It was reported that the plan was guided by other polices in places such as the National Forestry Act of 1968, National Disaster Risk Management Plan of 1996 and others.
Mr Moeng said although the policies were old, he said they were going to review them to take into consideration issues of climate change and what was on the ground.
For her part, the district commissioner, Ms Chabongwa Matseka welcomed the plan and assured the ministry a smooth implementation.
She said all stakeholders would play an effective role in achieving the outcome of the plan. She added that the plan would guide and direct them to address challenges encountered in the district.