The veld fire men­ace

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/opinion -

Birds live by and large on grain of grass in the wild.

De­struc­tion of that grass has a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the eco­log­i­cal sys­tem.

For ex­am­ple, ro­dents and rep­tiles such as rats and snakes tend to seek safety and food in houses, fac­to­ries and mo­tor ve­hi­cles when­ever the veld is burnt and can­not give them nat­u­ral shel­ter and food.

In those cir­cum­stances, they can spread danger­ous dis­eases, with snakes be­ing a cause of many deaths in the ru­ral ar­eas of Zim­babwe ev­ery year.

The de­struc­tion of trees cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment in which car­bon diox­ide, a danger­ous gas, in­creases, caus­ing a higher in­ci­dence of dis­eases of the up­per res­pi­ra­tory tract, and der­ma­to­log­i­cal al­i­ments. Land is the source of life for the en­tire hu­man race as it is on it that it lives, and from it that it survives.

Fire is, in ef­fect, a de­struc­tive el­e­ment that must be used with much care. It re­duces an agri­cul­tur­ally pro­duc­tive re­gion into a bar­ren desert, and a formerly wet lo­cal­ity into an arid area.

It de­stroys the earth’s top cover, mak­ing it easy for the wind to blow it away, and for wa­ter to wash and carry the soil off. This means, in fact, that veld fires fa­cil­i­tate and ac­cel­er­ate soil ero­sion.

That is one of the neg­a­tive re­sults of veld fires, an­other be­ing the dan­ger it poses to hu­man life and to prop­erty such as peo­ple’s homes, as was the case in Medeira, Por­tu­gal, two weeks ago.

Many soil sci­en­tists and phys­i­cal ge­og­ra­phers be­lieve that veld fires con­trib­ute to the world’s de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion phe­nom­e­non.

They base their con­clu­sions on some Sa­hara Desert ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tions that found re­mains of wood that was burnt some mil­lions of years ago, proof that be­fore turn­ing into the world’s largest desert, the Sa­hara was a for­est.

Soil con­ser­va­tion­ists tell us that veld fires con­trib­ute to the de­gen­er­a­tion of the af­fected land.

It is be­cause of that they strongly crit­i­cise the “chitemene” agri­cul­tural sys­tem of the Bem­bas of Zam­bia.

That sys­tem in­volves slash­ing and burn­ing of ar­eas to be tilled.

An im­por­tant fact we must all re­mem­ber about land is that it is a nat­u­ral gift, God-given, if you like, to us all that we must use with much care so that we leave it to pos­ter­ity in as us­able a con­di­tion as we found it.

Veld fires cause vir­gin land to age overnight, re­sult­ing in very poor pas­toral and crop agri­cul­tural yields.

Some min­er­als such as mica and zinc get ad­versely af­fected by veld fires, es­pe­cially if they re­peat­edly oc­cur where the min­er­als are found.

One soil science the­ory says that veld fires cause greater dam­age to soils with a high phos­pho­rous com­po­nent than those with less.

The rea­son may be that phos­pho­rous is very flammable, so that where it oc­curs veld fires will be stronger and will last longer.

How­ever, wher­ever they oc­cur, veld fires are de­struc­tive, and those re­spon­si­ble for their oc­cur­rence must be ar­rested. Presently the Zim­babwe Repub­lic Po­lice does not ap­pear or sound to con­sider veld fires a serious crime.

If the po­lice did, their per­son­nel would in­ves­ti­gate the causes and ori­gins of ev­ery veld fire.

They do not. Could it not help if the min­istry re­spon­si­ble for the pro­tec­tion of Zim­babwe’s en­vi­ron­ment closely li­aise with the law en­force­ment agen­cies with the aim of estab­lish­ing a sec­tion that deals with this na­tional men­ace?

That could most likely re­duce the in­ci­dence of veld fires, and save the tress that the Min­is­ter (Cde Op­pah Machin­guri) is wisely ask­ing peo­ple to plant yearly.

To Zim­bab­weans it is nec­es­sary to say that the duty to pro­tect our moth­er­land or fa­ther­land is on our shoul­ders.

Burn­ing it is ac­tu­ally de­stroy­ing it. Ev­ery par­ent, teacher, MP, coun­cil­lor, chief, head­man, and vil­lage head should ed­u­cate those he or she leads about the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing our land.

It is sig­nif­i­cant that var­i­ous na­tions re­fer to their re­spec­tive coun­tries as ei­ther their fa­ther­land or moth­er­land.

Land is in­deed the most im­por­tant of all par­ents be­cause it is a na­tional as com­pared to a fam­ily par­ent.

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a re­tired, Bulawayo-based jour­nal­ist. He can be con­tacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sg­

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