Rwanda on 22nd March joined the rest of the world to mark World Water Day, on, by celebrating the progress in the water sector, Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWFA) called for strong collaboration with different stakeholders to address existing water challenges while encouraging the general public to be part of water resources protection.
Ahead of the day’s celebration, different activities were organized through the ‘Water Week’ which begun with a ‘Walk for Water’ during Car Free Day on Sunday 18 March in the City of Kigali, launching of different water supply systems and an Integrated Water Resources Management conference and exhibition which took place from 20-21 March.
The International World Water Day has been held annually since 1993 as a means of focusing global attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Officials from Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWFA) highlighted that the challenges that still hamper integrated water resource management including environmental damage, together with climate change are driving the water-related crises around the world.
Dismas Karuranga, the Water Quality Management Officer at RWFA says the current water challenges include floods, droughts and water pollution which are made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes’ catchments, lack of waste water treatment, wetland degradation, unsustainable mining and lack of sustainable financing.
He says such have led to disease-, sediments that affect hydropower production and functioning, biodiversity loss, affected agriculture especially through prolonged drought, erosion and flooding, lack of safe drinking water, loss of lives and property due to disasters among others.
The day celebration aimed at raising awareness among public about nature-based solutions to address water challenges, the interdependence between water and forests in the quest for sustainable development, the importance of considering nature-based solutions in the sustainable management of water, stakeholder’s role in the process of catchment planning and its concrete results.
Experts say nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of such water challenges by emphasizing the benefit of river banks protection, catchments rehabilitation, floodplains and wetlands restoration on rebalancing water cycle, improving human health and livelihoods as well as reducing the risk of flooding and provide recreational and tourism benefits.
To showcase one of the solutions to the water challenges, the day was commemorated this year under the theme ‘Nature for Water’with a community work (Umuganda) led by Water for Growth Rwanda in Rubavu District to put in place floods control measures, including planting trees and putting sandbags on the banks of Sebeya River while the inauguration of the Murama Water Supply System, led by WASAC, took place on 23 March in Kayonza district.
Karuranga explains that to scale up such solutions, government is finalizing a six-year plan that will include four main interventions which need collaboration with different stakeholders to implement.
These include effective governance for water management, water resources management at national and trans-boundary level, equitable water allocation and efficient water utilization so that sectors such as industries and agriculture, among others, each efficiently uses water it needs to avoid impact on other areas.
The plans also look at mitigating water related disasters and water sheds rehabilitation, cope with flooding, drought and other disasters.
He adds that the plan also considers enhanced water storage by building bigger multi-purpose dams, rainwater harvesting, retaining run-off waters.
Water For Growth interventions
According to Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWFA), the six-year plan needs continuous intervention from different stakeholders.
Among partners that are funding the plan in integrated water resources management is Water for Growth Program funded by Netherlands government and being implemented under RWFA.
The joint four-year programme aims at improving effective management of water resources in Rwanda.
It operates at national and local level in four demonstration catchment areas namely; upper Nyabarongo, Nyabugogo, Sebeya and Muvumba rivers.
The Upper Nyabarongo Catchment occupies an area of 3 348 km2 in eight districts of; Nyamagabe, Huye, Nyanza, Ruhango and Muhanga in Southern Province as well as Karongi, Ngororero and Rutsiro in Wetsern Province.
The programme creates mechanism for practice, learning and demonstrating approaches with objective to building capacity for conducting water management in accordance with principles and good practices of integrated water resources management.
It has five core components, mainly enhancement of institutional framework, capacity strengthening in key organizations in integrated water resource management and developing implementation principles.
It also includes forming catchments task forces, audit water resources and demand, developing appropriate strategy and plan of action as well as supporting integrated water resource management investment funds.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN) has allocated 18 million Euros for investments which are linked to the plans identified in the four demonstration catchment areas.
The programme has also budget for studies, surveys and research to respond to the needs of information and knowledge within demonstration catchments and specific integrated water resource management issues in Rwanda at large.
It also develops tools to better manage data, information and knowledge.
Water for Growth intervened in rehabilitating the Upper Nyabarongo Catchment, in Mushishiro Sector of Muhanga District and Ndaro , Nyange sectors in Ngororero District.
Experts say the catchment degradation due to soil erosion from poor agricultural practices, illegal mining and deforestation, could pose negative impacts on Nyabarongo I Hydropower reservoir.
In response to the challenges, Water for Growth Program interventions focused on rehabilitation of 921 of 1 121 hectares on Upper Nyabarongo catchment area by progressive, bench and narrow cut terraces, agroforestry, afforestation, river and reservoir buffer zone protection.