BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has reported an 85% increase in veld fires this season compared to the same period last year.
A total of 1 517 fire incidents, which destroyed 408 366,7 hectares of land, were recorded, with three people losing their lives.
The veld fires have destroyed agricultural produce, equipment, household property and plantations worth US$187 167, EMA reported.
EMA environmental education and publicity manager Amkela Sidange said the majority of the veld fires had been recorded in the resettlement areas, which have 61,82% land destroyed by fire.
Two minors, siblings aged three and six in Hurungwe lost their lives after a house they were in caught fire.
In another incident, a veld fire claimed the life of a 59-year-old woman in Zvimba.
Sidange said due to the loss of lives and environmental damage from veld fires, the agency had intensified implementation of measures to stop the practise, which include law enforcement and awareness campaigns.
During the exercises, EMA issued 732 tickets to offenders, 5 027 veld fire environmental protection orders and opened 43 dockets for prosecution on environmental-related crimes.
“The cumulative burnt area translates to 84,97% increase compared to the same period in 2020 when 220 778,79 hectares were burnt from the recorded 395 veld fire incidents,” Sidange said.
“Humankind remains its own worst enemy in veld fire management in the country as almost all veld fires recorded so far are due to human activities.
“Some members of the community are now panicking after realising the intensity of veld fire damages while they have no fire guards, and also due to the ongoing prosecution blitz on failure to have standard fire guards by the agency, thus communities are now frantically making efforts to clear fire guards using fires when conditions are no longer conducive for that method, hence resulting in outbreaks of veld fires. Already this veld fire season, fatal losses have been recorded from veld fires caused through this mistimed activity.”
She urged the public to report cases of veld fires to the police or authorities, so that offenders are brought to book.
“The current trends in veld fire incidents require increased effort by all stakeholders to prevent veld fires, mobilise the local structures to put out the fires and report the culprits to law enforcement agencies,” Sidange said.
“For example, community members are not usually keen to give out critical information to law enforcement agencies, such as naming a person who has started a veld fire, thus prohibiting prosecution of offenders and also the protection of our environmental goods and services, property and life, hence call for communities to assist in law enforcement by providing information as requested by law enforcement agencies.”