Veld fires claim five lives in Manicaland province

CHIPINGE — AT least five people were burnt to death, while property worth millions of dollars was lost as a result of uncontrolled veld fires in Manicaland province during the 2012 fire season.

REPORT BY OUR CORRESPONDENT

Addressing a fire awareness campaign meeting organised by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) in Chipinge last week, Economic Planning and Investment Promotion deputy minister, Samuel Undenge said 16 people also lost their lives to veld fires nationwide, describing the figure as “shocking and unacceptable”.

He said the majority of the victims were the vulnerable age groups of between two and five years, as well as those above 70 years.

“Veld fires continue to pose a threat to human life and property,” said Undenge. “Manicaland lost five lives and this is a pathetic loss because these are people whom we are supposed to look after and give due care and concern.”

The minister said property and infrastructure worth US$479 723 went up in smoke as a result of veld fires in the province.

This included livestock, plantations, electricity poles, equipment and farm produce.

“The upward trend in severity of veld fires on our environment is a cause for concern,” he said. “As a ministry, we firmly believe positive correction measures should be undertaken to ensure sustainable environmental management and protection.”

The minister said there was need for a deliberate move from all stakeholders to join hands with EMA in raising awareness about the dangers of veld fires, as well as protecting the environment.

According to EMA there has been a marked increase in area burnt by veld fires in the country in the past few years.

In 2012 alone 1 320 325 hectares were lost as compared to 713 770 hectares in 2011. In an endeavour to raise awareness, the environmental agency conducted 1 065 fire awareness campaigns.

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