ENVIRONMENTAL Management Agency (EMA) spokesperson Steady Kangata has appealed to members of public not to start veld fires as the country heads into the dry season saying such fires were a threat to the lives of people and the environment.
Kangata said lives had been lost and the environment severely degraded due to veld fires started by members of the public.
“We are appealing to members of the public to desist from acts that can result in veld fires ahead of the dry season that begins in July and ends in October. Over the years human lives have been lost as a result of the veld fires that are very destructive,” said Kangata.
“According to the Environmental Management Act (CAP 20:27), no person is allowed to light a fire outside residential and commercial premises during the period July 31 to October 31 of each year and anyone who breaches this act could face imprisonment.”
Kangata said 16 people were killed by raging veld fires in 2012 and although the number declined to four last year, EMA preferred that no livers are lost at all. He said plantations, crops and pastures had been destroyed by veld fires subjecting some parts of the population to food insecurities.
“Veld fires are also a significant threat to food security as the last few years have seen fires burning wheat farms, maize fields, among other valuables,” he said.
Kangata said it was now the time of the year when the public must be in the process of constructing standard fireguards around their farms and premises.
“By now we expect the public to be busy constructing standard fire guards around their premises. A standard fire guard must be at least nine metres (wide),” he said.
He said members of the public should also form fire fighting communities that would be on the lookout for any veld fires and alert relevant authorities in a bid to stop fires from causing more destruction.
Katanga said it was time the judiciary increased the penalty of illegally burning garbage as it had been the major cause of veld fires.
EMA has also embarked on a nationwide campaign against veld fires in a bid to alert the public on the dangers associated with veld fires and how to prevent them.
Last week Bulawayo chief fire officer Richard Peterson said between January and April this year, the fire brigade had attended to four veld fires in Bulawayo.