Know your role in veld fire man­age­ment

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

VELD fires have be­come one of the great­est en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges of our time, caus­ing so much de­struc­tion to Zim­babwe’s nat­u­ral re­sources, prop­erty and hu­man life. In the past decade, 104 lives have been lost as a re­sult of veld fires dur­ing the dry sea­son.

This en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue has also im­pacted on the eco­nomic growth. Mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of prop­erty, in­fra­struc­ture, and crops wait­ing har­vest­ing, plan­ta­tions, crops and pas­tures were de­stroyed by veld fires, com­pro­mis­ing the na­tion’s food se­cu­rity and nu­tri­tion sta­tus.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Agency has been mon­i­tor­ing veld fires since the 31st of July 2018, to date. Dur­ing the pe­riod be­tween the 31st of July and the 31st of Oc­to­ber each year, the like­li­hood of run­away fires is very high due to the con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment, which in­cludes the avail­abil­ity of dry flammable ma­te­rial, wind and heat. Since the 31st of July 2018, a to­tal of 1 326 fire in­ci­dences de­stroy­ing 860 204.04ha have been recorded. This translates to 4.6 per­cent de­crease com­pared to the same pe­riod in 2017 when 1 855 fire in­ci­dences were recorded burn­ing 901 313.91ha of land. Na­tion­ally 2.23 per­cent has been burnt since the on­set of the fire sea­son as com­pared to 2.33 per­cent last year.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Agency strongly be­lieves in stake­holder par­tic­i­pa­tion in order to achieve a veld fire free en­vi­ron­ment.

They play a piv­otal role in fire man­age­ment as they are em­pow­ered un­der the Tra­di­tional Lead­ers Act to ap­pre­hend and pros­e­cute en­vi­ron­men­tal law of­fend­ers in­clud­ing those that breach veld fire reg­u­la­tions.

They also act as the gov­ern­ing body to the an­cient cus­toms and prac­tices of clans, tribes, states, chief­doms and king­doms in pro­tect­ing their re­sources. Tra­di­tional Lead­ers are en­cour­aged to: spear­head the con­struc­tion of stan­dard fire­guards in their com­mu­ni­ties, es­tab­lish fire — fight­ing teams within the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties who will lead the rest of the com­mu­nity in ex­tin­guish­ing veld fires. Use tra­di­tional courts to sanc­tion veld fire of­fend­ers and keep a record of all the veld fire oc­cur­rences in their ar­eas since they are on the ground and to hold fire aware­ness meet­ings and cam­paigns through­out the fire sea­son. There is also need to es­tab­lish a veld fire alert sys­tem in ev­ery vil­lage such as drum beat, bell/gong or whis­tle.

Farm­ers are one of the most vul­ner­a­ble groups to veld fires be­cause crop residues act as fuel, which is re­quired for the oc­cur­rence of veld fires. Also, as their crops await har­vest­ing, they can act as biomass, which can fuel fires and cause them to spread to other ar­eas. In the process, agri­cul­tural in­fra­struc­ture such as ir­ri­ga­tion equip­ment and trac­tors can be de­stroyed. Farm­ers should con­struct stan­dard fire­guards ev­ery year, which are 9m wide on ei­ther side of the farm bound­aries and also in­ter­nal fire­guards, which are 4,5m around plan­ta­tions and fields in order to pro­tect crops.

In­spect fire­guards reg­u­larly to make sure that they are free of any com­bustible ma­te­rial. En­sure that fire- fight­ing equip­ment such as, wa­ter filled knap­sack sprayers and bowsers, fire beat­ers and sacks are at an ac­ces­si­ble point dur­ing the fire sea­son. Re­port all fire in­ci­dences to the near­est po­lice or EMA of­fices within 7 days. Have fire alert sys­tems such as drums, whis­tles and bells, Take heed to weather re­ports. Abide by the fire dan­ger rat­ing in­dex so as to im­prove your state of pre­pared­ness.

The ZRP is play­ing a piv­otal role in pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment by en­forc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal laws and up­hold­ing the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion. The ZRP should hold aware­ness meet­ings with com­mu­ni­ties on veld fire man­age­ment, es­tab­lish fire fight­ing teams in the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and pros­e­cute of­fend­ers whose ac­tiv­i­ties re­sult in the oc­cur­rence of veld fires.

En­sure that you ex­tin­guish your cig­a­rette stubs be­fore throw­ing them away to avoid veld fires. En­sure that car elec­tri­cal sys­tem­sare ser­viced and loose me­chan­i­cal parts such as the ex­haust are tight­ened to avoid veld fires em­a­nat­ing from sparks so cre­ated af­ter get­ting in con­tact with the grass on the road servi­tude as you drive. Never drive through flames or when the vi­sion is ob­scured by smoke from veld fires.

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