Committee on Environment Concludes Public Hearings on National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill in Mpumalanga

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The Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries heard from Mpumalanga Province’s Kwaggafontein and Bushbuckridge residents their municipalities do not have resources to extinguish veld and forest fires when they break as a result the fires cause unspeakable damage when they occur. The residents told the committee that they feel vulnerable to the fires and called for protection.

The residents appealed to the committee for assistance on firefighting training and with the provision of firefighting equipment such as fire trucks and extinguishers and building of a dam so that when fires break they are in a better position to extinguish them.

The committee was in Mpumalanga where it conducted public hearings on the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill [B24-2021] as part of its visits to all the provinces to afford the people an opportunity to express their views on the Bill.

Mr Pogiso Modise who acted as the Chairperson of the committee told the residents in Kwaggafontein and Bushbuckridge communities that the committee is aware that children and livestock have died in the mountains because of uncontrolled fires. “Many of our children have died in shacks, a lot of animals and livestock have died because of fire. We are here to afford you an opportunity to express your views on the methodologies to combat fires,” said Mr Modise.

The committee heard that when there are fires all the vegetation that include wild fruit which women from the poorest of the poor families harvest to feed their children is destroyed.

In both communities, the participants in the hearings asked the committee to ensure that the Bill clarifies whether the Fire Protection Associations should be constituted at district, provincial or national levels and how will the associations assist.

Mr Pogiso Modise told the residents at both communities that the committee will engage with the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment on funding for firefighting equipment and resources for affected communities. He also told them that Section 7 of the principal Act compels the Minister to assist communities in the formation of fire protection associations.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.

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