Ema issues veldfire warning

Environmental Management Agency (Ema) has warned that Zimbabwe could experience increased veldfires this year

THE Environmental Management Agency (Ema) has warned that Zimbabwe could experience increased veldfires this year after receiving normal to above normal rainfall during the 2022/23 rainfall season.

In a statement last week, Ema environmental education and publicity manager Amkela Sidange said the rains supported the growth of biomass, which when dry, act as fuel load resulting in intense veldfires.

Ema environmental education and publicity manager Amkela Sidange

“To that end, the agency established a fire risk prediction (team) for the year 2023 which concluded that the country is very susceptible to veldfires this year.

“The fire risk modelling revealed that the country is in the following categories: Low risk 18,14%, medium risk (41,25%), high risk (39,56%) and extreme risk 1,05%, of the total land area of Zimbabwe,” she said.

Sidange said provinces highly susceptible to veldfires were Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Matabeleland North while districts that fell in extreme risk category were Nyanga, Mutasa, Mutare and Chimanimani.

“This has seen the strengthening of collaborations and synergies between the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement ministry and the Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministry, and all relevant stakeholders, for the purpose of protecting the environment, agricultural produce (crops and animals) and agricultural equipment and infrastructure which is key to economic prosperity,” she said.

The Environment minister Mangaliso Ndlovu has since through Notice No 76 of August 4, 2023, gazetted the 2023 fire restriction period as running from July 31 to November 30 this year.

“Already during the first week of the 2023 fire restriction period, a total of 412 fire incidents that burnt 34 194,31 ha of veld were reported. However, most of these fires were observed to be largely management fires coming from fire guard construction, early burning and block burning, ongoing disregarding the onset of the fire restriction period.

“To that end, the agency is reminding members of the public that the fire restriction period is on us hence the urgent need to prevent onset of veldfires. The agency and related law enforcement government arms will keep an eye on fire behaviour and trends in the country during this period, and all those found violating the law will be prosecuted,” Sidange said.

She said Ema would continue issuing daily fire statistics using the near real time satellite system to identify, locate a fire, occurrence time and speed. This will help stakeholders to quickly react to fire incidents when they occur and reduce damage to the environment therefrom. At the same time the public is urged to follow weather forecasts from the Meteorological Services Department so as to understand wind patterns for that period as wind speed contribute towards the intensity of veldfires and wind direction informs firefighting strategies to adopt.

“Communities are at the same time called upon to report fire offenders to law enforcement agencies and ensure a zero tolerance to veldfires in their areas,” she added.

According to Statutory Instrument 7 of 2007, it is a punishable offence to light a fire outside residential or commercial premises during the fire restriction period.


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