VELD fires have destroyed 54 000 hectares of land in the Midlands province barely two months into the dry season which started on July 31 and ends on October 31, compared to 34 000 ha destroyed during the same period last year.
BY BRENNA MATENDERE
Enviromental Management Agency (EMA)’s Midlands provincial spokesperson Simon Musasiwa, confirmed the development yesterday.
“As of September 7, 54 000ha had been destroyed in Midlands. The figure is higher than the 34 000ha that had been burnt as of the same date last year,” he said.
Some of the major causes of the fires noted by EMA include land clearance by farmers and illegal miners, animal poachers, honey mongers and careless disposal of cigarette stubs.
In the wake of the fire incidences, EMA has put in place several strategies to curb the crisis.
“The strategies include the issuing of 804 fireguard construction orders to farmers, carrying out of 119 community and farmer meetings, training of 286 veld fire-fighting committees and 10 radio interviews on veld fire management,” Musasiwa said.
He added that EMA has already implemented biomass reduction projects that led to 30 000ha of land being cleared of inflammable materials and the introduction of apiculture projects in areas under extreme risk of veld fires.
“EMA would like to warn members of the public not to start up open fires in this fire season because it can go out of control,” said Musasiwa.
In the past, serious problems like loss of lives and valuable properties have been recorded in Midlands.
In 2012, 10 people died while 950 905 hectares of land was destroyed in veld fires, while 1 152 000 hectares of vegetation was destroyed the following year, with a total of 25 people losing their lives during the disasters.
During that year, a sad case was witnessed at Debshen Farm in Somabhula when a 13-year-old herd boy was trapped in a veld fire and died. The incident also saw the fire spreading into Insiza district where 35 elephants were burnt to death in a conservancy with six houses also being destroyed.
In 2013, the veld fires saw five other people being burnt to death with 713 770 hectares of vegetation destroyed. Sixteen people died in the veld fires the following year with 1 320 325 hectares destroyed. Among those who died were minors aged 4 and 5 years who were trapped when their parents left them behind during a stampede after their Apostolic Church building at Calent Farm in Shurugwi caught fire.
Twenty-one cars at a garage in Gweru’s light industrial site were to be burnt to ashes the following year after fire started off in a nearby veld.
This year farmers who are battling tick-borne diseases have also contributed to veld fires as they burnt grasslands in a bid to destroy ticks as the nation has been hit by a shortage of dipping chemicals.