Fatima Karuweni/ZTN Correspondent
The Environmental Management Agency, EMA, is conducting a veld fire management blitz across the country, especially in all Mashonaland Provinces and Manicaland which are hotspot areas for fire outbreaks.
In a statement, EMA Environmental Education and Publicity Manager, Amkela Sidange said the major thrust of the operation is law enforcement which includes veld fire investigations and prosecution as well as checking on compliance to fireguard construction.
“Since the onset of the blitz on the 11 th of August, the Agency has issued 226 tickets, with farmers paying between ZWL 30 000 and ZWL 50 000, and opened 23 dockets, both for failure to put in place standard fireguards and for starting fires that caused extensive damage to the environment and property,” she said.
EMA had served a total of 4731 Environmental Protection Orders to farmers before the onset of the veld fire season reminding them to construct standard fireguards around their properties in order to protect them from veld fires during the veld fire season.
“Farmers/landowners should understand that fireguards are not only a legal requirement but a basic tool in veld fire management meant to protect the environment, property and life from veld fires.”
Ms Sidange said an assessment by the agency showed that compliance levels in fireguard construction remain low, ranging between 5,6 percent in Chikomba district in Mashonaland East where the blitz started, and rising to about 54,3 percent in Manicaland, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central.
However, she commended some Rural District Councils for compliance.
“The Agency wants to acknowledge active participation of some rural district councils in fire management such as Zvimba, Hurungwe and Wedza just to mention a few,” Ms Sidange said.
The environmental watchdog called on the public to assist in veld fire investigations saying many people are often reluctant to share critical information that can enable identification of offenders and allow for protection to take course.