Destructive rains blamed on Gishwati deforestation

HUYE - Metrological experts currently meeting at National University of Rwanda have concluded that the heavy rains that hit Rubavu district recently were a result of the deforestation that has eaten up Gishwati  forest.

HUYE - Metrological experts currently meeting at National University of Rwanda have concluded that the heavy rains that hit Rubavu district recently were a result of the deforestation that has eaten up Gishwati  forest.

Adrienne Mukashema, a lecturer at University’s Faculty of Agriculture and researcher at Centre for Geographic Information Systems (CGIS), blamed the massive deforestation and the human activity for the heavy rains.

“This area is not supposed to have floods, but because of the deforestation of the natural reserve of Gishwati, which is near the upstream of Rubavu town, and the intensive agriculture due to human pressure, we have periodic floods,”

She said that CGIS was requested to make maps of how to plan the conservation, the restoration or the rehabilitation programme of the water shed to avoid the downstream effect.

“We have handed over the plans indicating which areas are in need of reforestation, areas that need to be protected from erosion and areas which have to be vacated in the Giswati zone. If the decision makers implement the findings, the floods will be significantly reduced,”

Heavy rains left 53 houses and 257 hectares of crops destroyed.

Originally the second-largest indigenous forest in Rwanda - covering 100,000 hectares (equivalent to 30 sq kms), and extending to the districts of Ngororero, Rubavu, Rutsiro and Nyabihu in Western Province, Gishwati has been severely depleted.

Recently, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released satellite imagery indicating that nearly 99.4 percent of the forest has been completely wiped out.

Massive deforestation is one major cause of the destructive rains.

Government has since 2005 been trying to recover some parts of the forest, but admits the current situation is worrying and has embarked on extensive recovery plans.
Resettlement is part of Government’s plan in an effort to restore the devastated Gishwati forest.

NASA notes that Gishwati’s destruction is largely a result of subsistence harvesting and cultivation in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and that, overall, only 600 hectares of Gishwati’s original 100,000 hectares remain.

Gishwati was last year selected as site for a historic conservation project - Rwanda’s first national conservation park to serve as international model for biodiversity restoration.

The meeting in Huye has attracted participants from Chad, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and host Rwanda.

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