The environment ministry has recorded a total of 42 veld fires between 23-30 September this year alone countrywide.
Minister Pohamba Shifeta, who gave the update on Tuesday in the National Assembly, said the fires are affecting the livelihoods of citizens and causing environmental damages across the country.
There is a high volume of biomass present across the country due to the good rains received earlier this year, of which Shifeta said, makes this year particularly dangerous for veld fires.
“As you may already be aware, Namibia’s fire season starts in July every year. The frequency and extent of veld fires since the start of the fire season has become a serious concern for the ministry despite our continued calls to members of the public and stakeholders to prevent the occurrence and spread of fires,” he said.
The most affected regions are Kavango East, Kavango West, Otjozodjupa, Oshikoto, Zambezi, Ohangwena, Kunene, Oshana, Omusati and Omaheke.
Between January and this month, 875 400 hectares have burned down in Otjozondjupa, 220 100 in Zambezi, Kavango East (635 900), Kavango West (181 700), Ohangwena (8 900), Omusati (23 800), Oshana (12 200), Oshikoto (86 800), Omaheke (161 100) and 2 000 in Khomas.
According to Shifeta, this presents massive damage to the environment and reason for all Namibians to be concerned.
“It is worrisome to observe that the country continues to report fire incidences, destroying properties and the environment and putting people’s lives in danger. The occurrence of veld fires is damaging vegetation in all fire-prone regions, leading to the direct and indirect loss of valuable natural resources. Severe fires also disrupt the ecosystem and affect natural processes, which may be crucial in sustaining our livelihoods,” he reacted.
Before the start of the fire season, the ministry developed a robust fire management strategy to prevent, detect and suppress fires. The strategy has components aimed at capacitating stakeholders and the general public through education and training local communities in basics of fire prevention and firefighting skills.
As part of the strategy, the ministry has started with the internationally accepted practice of prescribed or early burning, which is the pre-planned ignition of fire for specific purposes, such as fuel reduction, habitat modification, improvement of natural resources and removal of encroacher bushes.
Also, the ministry facilitates the preparation of extensive networks of firebreaks annually – and to this effect, firebreaks in all of the fire-prone regions were cleared.
Shifeta said the ministry has gone further to sensitise members of the public on the dangers, preventive measures, and suppression techniques for fires, using public platforms such as radio, newspapers, television and social media.
“We have, through NBC, produced fire prevention messages to be aired in all our indigenous languages radio stations. The ministry is appealing to the public, landowners and other stakeholders to take collective responsibility in managing fire during this year’s fire season,” he stated.
Members of the public, farmers or landowners, and all stakeholders are called upon to put in place necessary fire prevention measures such as fire cut lines and fire breaks in and around their properties, as well as to have in place basic firefighting tools to assist in case a fire occurs.
Parents are called on to ensure children do not light fires without supervision.
Smokers have also been urged to put out their cigarette butts completely before disposing of them, while people using fires for domestic purposes such as cooking, heating, and camping must ensure fires are extinguished afterwards.