By Fitzgerald Munyoro | Nehanda Local |
MUTARE – Timber worth a staggering US$5 million and over 8 000 hectares of land have been gutted by veld fires in separate incidents throughout the Manicaland Province, a top environmental official has said.
Statistics released by the Environmental Management Agency(EMA) reveal that since the inception of the fire season in 2021, over 8 thousands hectares of land rich in timber and other valuable natural resources has been incinerated by veld fires in the province,an increase of 138% when compared to 2020.
Speaking at a press and stakeholder briefing, EMA provincial manager Kingston Chitotombe said veld fires are becoming a real issue within the province and more awareness and prevention efforts are needed in combating this environmental hazard.
“Since the onset of the fire season, the province has recorded 54 fire incidences resulting in approximately 8 495.67ha of land being burnt, compared to 23 fire incidences and 8 156.72ha lost during the previous year 2020, same time. This shows a 135% increase in the number of fire incidences this year,” said Chitotombe.
He also indicated that the spike in cases has made Zimbabwe’s environmental status fall into the high-extreme risk bracket of countries most prone to veld fires.
“The 2021 veld fire prediction undertaken by Environmental Management Agency (EMA), using biomass as indicated by the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) as a proxy for fuel load, and the previous fire behaviour as indicated by the burnt area in 2020, shows that the country is generally in the high risk (65.2%) to extreme risk (24.7%) to veld fires, compared to medium (43.3%) to high (23.1%) risk in 2020,” said Chitotombe.
Chitotombe said EMA has already set a farm to farm monitoring project in motion as a countermeasure to zero in on the source and causes of veld fires and fine non compliant farmers. So far fines amounting to a staggering 1.5 million have been issued.
“It is in this regard that the province have already begun a comprehensive farm to farm monitoring programme, starting with Makoni District.
“The objective of the operation is to check the status of fire prevention measures such as fire guards in veldt fire hot spots; check status on compliance to farms that were served with orders.”
“Fine farmers without fire guards and who committed other fire offences; investigate fire incidences; and raise awareness,” said Chitotombe.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) provincial spokesperson Inspector Luxon Chananda said the police would assist EMA’s efforts by using the existing legislation to arrest wrong doers.
“As indicated, the main perpetrators of environmental destruction through veld fires are people who are illegally settled and arsonists so we will use the laws at our disposal to deal with these culprits.” Nehanda Radio