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Veld fires consume over five million hectares

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism recorded three million hectares of burnt areas in 2021 and 2,4 million hectares last year.

In a statement, the ministry’s spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, said the burnt areas included forests, bush woodlands and grasslands in various regions across the country.

“During the 2022 fire season, a total of five people sustained serious injuries, unfortunately, three people lost their lives in addition to livestock and wildlife losses. This year already, since the start of the fire season in April, we have recorded a total of 499 344 hectares burnt by uncontrolled fires,” he said.

Muyunda said veld fires were recorded in 13 regions, with Kavango West recording the biggest burnt area of 815 724 hectares, followed by Otjozondjupa with 577 926 ha and the smallest burnt area was recorded in Oshikoto region, with 11 954 ha.

“The fire season is usually characterised by strong winds, high temperatures and dry vegetation, resulting in a fire burning uncontrollably. We have activated the fire management systems in order to deal with this expected natural disaster by implementing a fire management strategy, which entails fire prevention and suppression activities, community outreach programmes, education and awareness as well as stakeholder engagement,” he said.

Muyunda said 33km of fire breaks have been cleared across the country and work is ongoing.

“We would like to call upon charcoal producers to adhere to charcoal production guidelines developed by the ministry in 2022.

We are also engaged in facilitating early burning in community forests as well as training community members,” he said.

The ministry is calling upon members of the public, farmers and property owners to put measures in place to minimise the risk of veld fires.

“Namibia’s fire season starts in April and ends in September and has been observed to cause massive damage to the environment and property over the past years,” he said.

The ministry said it is important for all stakeholders to participate in fire-fighting and suppression activities.