Veld fire deaths drop 12 percent

Veld fire deaths drop 12 percent

09 November 2016

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Zimbabwe —   The environmental management agency (EMA) has applauded members of the public following a reduction of deaths due to veld fires from 16 last year to six this year.

Environmental Education and Publicity Manager for EMA Mr Steady Kangata said during the fire season, from July 31 to October 31, a decrease of 12 percent had been recorded in fire-related incidents.

He said although the fire season has come to an end, EMA will continue to be on high alert until the country receives substantial rains.

Mr Kangata said only 1 652 fire incidences had been recorded this fire season as compared to 1 881 during the same period last year.

“This resulted in the destruction of 1197 335 hectares compared 1 336 746 hectares during the same period last year, which translates to a 10, 4 percent decrease as at end October 2016,” he said.

Mr Kangata said only six lives were lost to veld fires this year compared to 16 last year.

“However, veld fire incidences increased this last month of October because of the high temperatures experienced during that period. Nonetheless, the fires were confined to road servitude,” he said.

“We attribute the reduction in both the incidences and hectare burnt to the cooperation we got from the various stakeholders such as traditional leaders, farmers, and general community members.”

Government has urged Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers who are deployed to guard Viphya Plantation against destruction to be vigilant by dealing with the perpetrators accordingly.Msaka (left) walking in the plantantion

Msaka (left) walking in the plantantion

Minister of Mines, Energy and Natural Resources, Bright Msaka, made the statement Tuesday after touring the plantation, especially areas under the jurisdiction of Total Land Care and Raiply Malawi Limited.

Incidences of fire destroying numerous hectares of trees every year have been a never-ending song for the Viphya Plantation for over a decade now. The plantation is shared by two districts of Mzimba andNkhata Bay.

However, the issue has raged on in spite of efforts by government and its stakeholders to plant trees and guard them against destruction. Reports have indicated that more often, the fires that destroy the plantation are deliberately set rather than accidental.

The minister said government is aware that some disgruntled workers and individuals whose licences were cancelled are the ones setting fires in the plantation.

“People need to know that this is a national asset, so if the department of forestry has denied somebody a licence for the reasons best known by the department, they are supposed to understand instead of setting fires,” he said.

To mitigate the challenge, Msaka said government deployed MDF soldiers in protected forests across the country as a way of scaring people from destroying the plantations.

In spite of the effort, some people are still setting parts of the Viphya Forest on fire, regardless of the size of trees.

“We have directed the Malawi Defence Force solders to deal with anyone setting bush fires and operating in the forest without licences and that the law will take its course [against them],” he warned.

However, Msaka commended Raiply Malawi Limited and Total Land Care for utilizing the forest sustainably and adding value to the trees from the forest.

“In the past, we have been cutting trees or sawing and selling them abroad at a very cheap price. We behaved like a prodigal son who squandered all what his father gave him.

“We need to be very careful and be proud of what we inherited so that we can benefit from it and pass on those benefits to the next generation,” advised the minister.

Earlier, Chief Executive Officer of Raiply Malawi Limited, Thomas Oomen, cited bush fires and encroachment as major challenges facing his company.

“This year alone, we have lost about 526 hectares [of trees] to bush fires, unfortunately, most of  these trees are below 15 years old but they are supposed to be harvested at the age of 25. This is dooming our future,” said Oomen.

Chikangawa Forest consists of seven plantations comprising 53,000 hectares.

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