Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has adopted new technologies to detect veld fires in real time resulting in reduced lost hectarage despite more fires being recorded countrywide.
The agency is now using Advanced Fire Information System (AFIS), a satellite-based fire information tool that provides near real time fire information to users.
EMA showcased the AFIS system at the just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo.
EMA principal research officer Mr Ntandokamlimu Dondo said the system has led to swift action in putting out veld fires.
“Through the use of AFIS, we are happy to say that while the incidents are high, the hectarage that has been burnt to date is on the low side. Since the start of the fire season, there has been a total of 2 459 fire incidents, burning 538 656 hectares of land. The cumulative burnt area translates to a 79 percent increase compared to the same period last year whereby 326 206 hectares were burnt from the recorded 605 veld fire incidents,” said Mr Dondo.
He said veld fire incidents had also destroyed property worth US$201 600.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu commended EMA for acting against veld fires.
“We are happy that the area that has been burnt per fire incident has been drastically reduced. This tells you that we have been able to respond and react swiftly to put out the fires before destroying big areas. We are quite excited about what EMA is doing as they are taking a good lead in environmental stewardship,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He said veld fires are among the major contributors to the country’s greenhouse emissions.
“We have to invest in technology mainly for purposes of identifying runaway veld fires. We have integrated systems and EMA has got a robust information system that locates the veld fires. Once we locate where they are in each ward, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement has got three extension workers who also have tablets that provide information. We need to respond quickly to reports of veld fires,” he said.
Minister Ndlovu said when there is a veld fire, information is circulated nationally, provincially and at ward level so that the nearest people are able to mobilise and put out the fire.
“We are deploying technologies mainly to improve our efficiency in fighting the veld fires and reduce the area destroyed by veld fires,” he said.
Minister Ndlovu said the country loses at least one million hectares of land to veld fire annually and already during this fire season, the country has surpassed 600 000 hectares.
The country’s veld fire season runs from the end of July to the end October. — @nqotshili