EMA urges vigilance, preventive measures as fire season approaches

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

FOLLOWING the El Nino-induced drought that destroyed crops and vegetation generating abundant dry matter this season, the Environment Management Agency (EMA) has warned the public against starting unnecessary fires.

EMA’s manager for environment and education Ms Amkela Sidange said the dry matter from crops and vegetation would easily provide fuel for uncontrollable veld fires, hence the need for citizens to be careful when handling fires. Most veld fires are largely caused by suspected arson and land clearing.

Mrs Sidange observed that EMA was banking on the collective responsibility of communities to safeguard their natural surroundings and mitigate the potential devastation caused by veld fires.

“As the dry season approaches, let us put in place veld fire prevention mechanisms to protect property, life and the environment from veld fires,” she said.

She went on to encourage farming communities to put in place relevant and adequate measures to prevent veld fires.

Meanwhile, in a statement released in the run-up to this year’s World Wetlands Day, EMA also advised the public that failing to put in place appropriate fire prevention measures was an offence, which attracted a fine of level 6 (US$300) or one-year imprisonment.

The statement also added that deliberately causing a fire that would go on to damage the environment, property or life was a wrongdoing, which courted a fine of level 8 (US$500) or one-year imprisonment. Starting a fire outside the residential or commercial property during the fire restriction period attracts a fine of level 8 (US$500) or one-year imprisonment.

The fire restriction period is observed during the fire season that stretches from July 1 to November 30.

“Further, failure to clear invasive alien species is an offence, which cumulates a fine of Level 4 or an imprisonment sentence of six months or US$100,” EMA explained.

The fines for the various fire offences are as stipulated in the Statutory Instrument 14A of 2023, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) (Standard Scale of Fines) Notice, 2023.

The country recorded a 50 percent decline in veld fires in 2023 when 858 361, 9 hectares were decimated by 3 717 veld fires in the fire season, which was about half of the 7 511 fires recorded in 2022.

The significant decrease in both the area burnt and the number of fires recorded in 2023 was attributed to training and awareness campaigns done countrywide by the Ministries of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development and the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife and other various stakeholders.

The above ministries strengthened their fire coordination activities for the sole purpose of protecting the environment, agricultural produce of both crops and animals, agriculture equipment and infrastructure which are key for economic prosperity.

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