SIXTEEN people were killed last year while more than 1,3 million hectares of land was destroyed by veldfires countrywide, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Environment and Natural Resources Minister Francis Nhema yesterday said a total of 1 861 fires were recorded during the same period. He said in 2011, five people were killed while 713,770 hectares of land was destroyed.
Minister Nhema was speaking at the Environment Management Agency/ZRP awards in Harare.
"The ZRP and EMA remained resolute and steadfast in their job leading to 874 tickets on fire related offences being issued as compared to 240 in 2011, thus a 400 percent increase," he said.
"A total of 129 dockets were opened for veldfire offenders and of these 67 went through the courts leading to jail sentences."
The minister said he was pleased to note that the force made an impressive contribution culminating in such prosecutions.
"However, we are saying more needs to be done, more arrests, more tickets and landowners should be compelled to put out fires," he said.
He urged everyone to adopt all necessary preventative measures to safeguard the environment
The minister appealed to the public to make a contribution in the prevention of fire outbreaks.
Minister Nhema said the awards were in line with one of EMA's core values on upholding stakeholder participation and the need to award the best police station and officer. He said his ministry through EMA works in partnership with various stakeholders in environmental management and protection.
He said the force plays a pivotal role in maintaining law and order and their policing promotes environmental management through their call to strict adherence to the provisions of the country's statutes including the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27).
Police Assistant Commissioner (operations) Jimmy Khumalo said the consequences of veldfires were enormous and range from destruction of eco-system and the loss of lives. He said the force shall continue taking a multi-sectoral approach to the fight against this scourge.