Districts urged to integrate environment issues in their planning


District planners and environment officers during the training last week. (Michel Nkurunziza.)

Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has appealed to ministries, districts planners, and environment officers to do more to integrate environment issues into their planning and budgeting process.

Rachael Tushabe, the head of environmental education and mainstreaming at REMA, told district planners and environment officers that their recent evaluation of the state of environment mainstreaming shows that it stands at 50 percent.

Failure to integrate could hamper sustainable development, she warned.

“Most national programmes are implemented at district level yet mainstreaming environment and climate change by ministries and districts into their fiscal planning and budgeting stands at only 50 per cent. In five years we wish to advance to 100 per cent as we increase 20 per cent every year,” she told participants at a training workshop in Bugesera District, last week.

Tushabe said districts and ministries cannot avoid integrating environment issues in their planning yet Government integrated the three dimensions of Sustainable Development (Economic, Social and Environment) and climate change resilience into the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy II (EDPRS 2013-2018).

She said REMA looks at different indicators such as improved energy saving, soil erosion control, rainwater harvesting rehabilitated ecosystems and activities related to waste management.

It also looks at surface covered by trees, water management, sustainable agriculture and irrigation, infrastructure development, environmental impact assessment on different activities, created green jobs, relocation from high risk zones and others.

With support of UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI), REMA has assessed the level of implementation of the mainstreamed environment issues for the last fiscal year.

It examined district performance contracts (Imihigo) and action plans.

According to Ange Irutingabo , the districts and community support officer, there are activities that are still neglected in planning yet contribute to economic development and sustainable development.

“Although steady progress has been recorded, there is need for districts to fill the gaps by planning for rehabilitation of mining sites and protection of rivers, lakes and marshlands,” the assessment report says.

Officials say 53 per cent of districts planned for ecosystems protections such as rivers, lakes, marshlands, mines and quarry site.
But little progress has been made compared to the year 2014-2015.

Districts claim to not have sufficient revenue to be allocated in ecosystems.

For 2015-2016 planning, the assessment report shows that only Karongi District did not plan for planting trees while none of the districts planned for green villages and greening public spaces.

It points out that 11 districts did not plan for sustainable agriculture as only eight districts planned for rainwater harvesting.

According to the assessment, only Nyabihu District failed to plan in increasing energy saving while 11 districts did not plan for waste management and pollution control.

“Only seven districts planned for relocation of residents from high risk zones as they claim high cost for relocation,” the report shows.

Meanwhile, REMA also expressed concern over compliance with environmental impact assessment for new infrastructures. Only two districts (Gicumbi and Gisagara) were found to be compliant.

In this fiscal year 2015-2016, there are 51 projects planned in districts that would require approval before the implementation but did not happen, according to REMA.

Augustin Murenzi, the environment officer in Gakenke District, said “we are still at low level in integrating environment in our district planning and therefore more training and capacity building in essential for us.”

Officers pointed out that rapid population growth with their activities is posing threats on environment and natural resources, which can be addressed by mainstreaming environment in all institutions.

Jean Boscho Nsabimana, in charge of planning and evaluation in Nyanza District, said budgetary constraints impede environment mainstreaming.