The Sunday News
Judith Phiri , Business Reporter
RURAL District Councils (RDCs) in Matabeleland North have come up with 2023 Fire Preparedness Strategies to achieve the reduction of land lost to veld fires this year.
Statistics from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) show that in 2022, Matabeleland North came second nationally, after Mashonaland West in terms of hectares burnt. That is a position the province has unfortunately maintained for the past six years.
The province lost 399 622.79ha in 2022, signalling a 132 percent increase compared to 172 215.01ha in 2021.
The most affected districts were Hwange, Lupane, Binga and Umguza respectively, while a majority of the veld fires occurred in protected areas.
Speaking at a Fire Indaba in Bulawayo on Friday, EMA Matabeleland North Provincial Environmental Manager, Mrs Chipo Mpofu-Zuze said fire risks were high in these places as the province was home to the biggest indigenous forests and national park.
“We have been coming number two coming after Mashonaland West for six years now. Despite the high damage we are experiencing it does not mean we have not been doing anything but it means the things we were doing are not sufficient enough to help us curb veld fires.
Hence, with the presentation of 2023 Fire Preparedness Strategies from the districts were are hoping that this year we can fight off and achieve the reduction of land lost to veld fires,” said Mrs Mpofu-Zuze.
She said the 2023 fire season was yet to be announced, as the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality in consultation with other relevant Ministries such as the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development will meet and agree informed with what they will be observing to come up with a fire season.
Mrs Mpofu-Zuze said according to the Environmental Management Act and Statutory Instrument 7 OF 2007 (Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection), it specified that 31 July to 31 October was the fire season, however, due to prevailing weather conditions there were changes.
“The risks of having fires running out of control are very high because of the temperatures and weather conditions. But later on, it was realised that fires are now starting earlier and they are stretching beyond October so it was agreed that each year we have to look and assess the weather conditions and then agree or come up with a fire season for that particular year.”
Hwange Rural District Council (HRDC) environment and natural resources officer, Mr Nxolelani Ncube said key drivers of veld fires in the district were massive coal mining and exploration at the peripheral of protected areas, massive charcoal making, poaching, bee harvesting and negligence in opening of new agricultural farming areas among others.
Lupane District Development Co-ordinator (DDC), Mrs Ennety Sithole said as part of the district’s fire management strategy for 2023, they have activated the District Civil Protection Committee (DCPC) ahead of the 2023 fire season.
“The Committee is comprised of Government Departments and Civil Society Organisations who have all committed resources towards suppression of veldt fires.
We will also do road shows, fire meetings or indabas and fire jingles to be distributed across social media platforms among others as part of education and awareness in our different wards,” she said.