The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) says Zimbabwe’s courts should impose stiffer sentences to deter villagers, farmers and other people from starting veld fires that are costing the country millions of dollars annually.
Speaking at a meeting held at the offices of the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Mashonaland West, Faber Chidarikire, on Monday, EMA Environmental Manager Eunice Mutepfa said stiffer penalties should be imposed by the courts to deter people from starting these fires.
Mutepfa bemoaned the present situation where fines ranging from five to $5,000 are being imposed by the courts.
She said most of the veld fires are affecting resettled farms and abandoned plots.
Mr. Chidarikire weighed in, saying the veld fire issue was now a political matter, in apparent reference to Mutepfa, who he said was fingering new farmers for starting fires in search of wild game.
He said political and traditional leaders should teach people in their areas the importance of preserving natural resources.
Some attendants urged EMA to give incentives to whistle blowers as a way of curbing the veld fires in the country.
Mutepfa said illegal miners also contribute to veld fires as they clear land using fire before using mineral detectors on the ground.
She said the most affected districts were Zvimba, Hurungwe and Makonde in Mashonaland West Province.
Chidarikire said despite 234 fire awareness campaigns, which included road shows, environmental school talks, community meetings and workshops last year alone, 1,320 325 hectares of land was destroyed that year.
He said so far 1,379 740 hectares have already been lost this year due to the fires, an increase of 4.5%.