Veld fires destroy 435k ha of forest

HARARE - More than 700 veld fires have been recorded since the beginning of the fire season on July 31, destroying over 435 000 hectares of forest, Environment ministry’s permanent secretary Prince Mupazviriho said yesterday.

Mupazviriho said to avoid the spread of fires, farmers should ensure that homesteads, crop fields and pastures are protected by fireguards.

“A total of 776 fire incidents have been recorded since the beginning of the fire season on July 31 to date, leading to a destruction of 435 170 hectares.

“This translates to a 129 percent increase in the area burnt compared to the 222 000 hectares that were destroyed from 691 incidents recorded in 2016,” said Mupazviriho.

He also warned that harvesting and removal of crops from the fields should be done early saying this was another catalyst of veld fires.

According to the Environmental Management Agency (Ema), 1 000 000 hectares of land is being lost through veld fires annually.

“Over 1 000 000 hectares are being burnt every year and in 2016 a total of 1,19 million hectares was lost to veld fires. The fires destroy vegetation which leaves the land bare and susceptible to soil erosion.”

“1,4 million hectares of communal land was burnt, 599 444 hectares of resettled A1 and A2 land, 106 899 hectares of national parks, 201 416 hectares of safari land, 74 000 hectares of small scale farms, 22 292 hectares of forest, 5 531 hectares of recreational park, 1 092 hectares of urban, 66 hectares of sanctuary and about 1 400 of unspecified land was destroyed by veld fires in 2016.” Ema’s environment officer Precious Magwaza told a recent land degradation workshop.

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