Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

7 December 2012

Tanzania: Govt Instals Computerised System to Monitor Veld Fires

THE government has put in place a computerized system that can spot veld fires and, via satellite, notify responsible authorities on daily basis.

Presenting a paper during the on-going workshop on raising stakeholders' awareness on Reduced Emission from Deforestation and Degradation and Enhancing Forest Carbon Stock (REDD+) and Energy, the Acting Director of Tanzania Forest Services (TFS), Ms Monica Kagya said the system is able to identify areas that are on fire, making it possible for action to be taken.

And those responsible for veld fires or clear vast areas of land for agriculture purposes will be identified in the same way, enabling legal action to be taken against them. "Veld fires are a big problem and have been costing the country a lot of money for many years, this is because majority of the public do not understand the detrimental effects of fires," Ms Kagya explained.

She said the computerized system which identifies veld fires and areas that are prone to fires can observe as far as South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda, meaning virtually the whole country and beyond can be monitored for veld fires. She further noted that the public around areas that are identified as at high risks to wildfires by the system are warned against clearing their farmlands using fire.

"Apart from identifying areas where there are wildfires, it can also identify areas that are at high risks of veld fires and those that are at low risk, which makes it possible for relevant authorities to bring awareness to the public in those areas not to use fire to clear their farmlands," she explained.

The computerized system has been set up at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, for providing daily reports on wildfires in protected areas including natural forests, reserved areas, game and national parks.

The system has also been set up in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives to monitor those starting veld fires to clear land for agriculture. Before the system was set up, Ms Kagya explained that an awareness campaign was conducted to educate the public on the negative effects of veld fires and what areas should not be cleared using fire and areas that can.

Ms Jonitha Masanja, REDD+ Task Force member from the Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children said the government should now consider seriously reducing charging tax on all alternative energy products, such as solar and gas to make it cheaper and affordable to the public.

"Once these alternative sources of energy are cheaper and affordable, we will be able to truly address the issue of educating the public against using firewood and charcoal and be able to see real results," she explained. Ms Masanja said majority of the population use sources of energy that are detrimental to the environment because they lack other sources of affordable alternative energies.

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