Committee on Environment concludes public hearings on National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment in KwaZulu-Natal
The Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries today concluded with success its three-day public hearings on the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Chairperson of the committee, Faith Muthambi, said, “We were heartened to have meaningful engagements with communities and organisations in packed halls in Vryheid, Richards Bay and in Bulwer.” Muthambi informed the people that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa requires Parliament to consult them and seek their views. The main objective of the Bill is to improve the administration of the principal Act and to insert certain definitions to enhance the functioning of the existing Act. The Act promotes the prevention and combatting of wildfires in the veld, mountains and in forested areas.
The Bill also seeks to grant more powers to traditional leaders and municipalities as peace officers to be able to arrest people who start fires in the veld and forests. One of the objectives of the Bill is to ensure that the Act remains responsive and relevant in the field of combatting and preventing veld and forest fires.
Muthambi said that veld and forest fires contribute to the economic, social and environmental degradation in the country. “Fires threaten food security and have devastating effects that include job losses, displacement of people, habitat and biodiversity loss.
The committee heard from Simon Thomas of the KwaZulu-Natal Fire Protection Association (KZNFPA)) and Bobby Hoole of the Lion’s River FPA, that the amendment to the Bill is well supported and that the associations are ready to work with the committee and communities to make the required amendments. The law is clear that every land owner must have a fire protection association.
Throughout the three days, the committee heard the people calling for empowerment of the youth on fire fighting to extinguish fire when it breaks.
The people also requested that there must be satellite stations and fire brigades in their local municipalities. In other communities participants asked for fire extinguishers and basic fire fighting equipment as they felt vulnerable to fires.
They informed the committee that when fires break they lose everything including their homes and livestock. Traditional leaders welcomed the Bill in all the communities but they told the committee that in rural areas it was very difficult to fight fires as there is no equipment. They said urban areas are more advantaged as they are equipped with fire brigades and helicopters.
The whip of the committee, Ntibi Modise, told the people that the committee will write a report that will contain all the inputs it received from the people during the hearings. He said the report will be tabled in the National Assembly (NA) together with the amendments to the Bill. He said that after the NA adopts the Bill it will be taken to the National Council of Provinces for its consideration and then to the president for assent.
Issued by Parliamentary Communication Services on behalf of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Faith Muthambi.
Fire and Rescue International will do a follow up article detailing the concerns and result in the magazine.
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