By Edward Makuzva
Wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, as they provide benefits to human beings and the environment hence the need to end peat fires, an official said.
Addressing journalists at a media tour organised by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), on peat fires which have been recorded in Borrowdale (Stratford) and affecting Mandara and Greystone area, EMA publicity and education manager, Amkela Sidange said the agency is currently working with the local communities to manage the peat fires.
Sidange added that the Agency is committed to addressing all peat fires, as the Stratford Vlei wetland area covering about 20 hectares and 639m2 is currently affected by the peat fires.
“Two injury incidents were recorded in recent years of a child and a biking lady who suffered high degree burns as the result of these peat fires. It is difficult to control the fires as the burning of the wetland imply the water table has dropped and the peat is dry hence combustion. The implication is that then there is need to raise the water table manually by pouring water on the wetland which is often difficult due to high evaporation because of the heat from the fire.
‘Peat fires are under seating (underground) and can happen without communities noticing and thus disaster looms. This puts houses and built up areas in the vicinity as well as people at risk from burns,” Sidange explained.
These are often under seated fires which remain smouldering underground and only manifest as smoke on the surface.
The EMA Publicity and Education Manager said the next stage is to conduct soil profiling to investigate the causes of the fire and this will be done through a trenching to ascertain depth and quantum of combustible burden.
After trenching the material will be removed using an excavator and then back filled with non burning rubbles, gravel and clay.
Meanwhile, EMA has currently has barricaded the affected (burning) area using chevron ribbon to warn people and control movement into the area