Automobile garage operators in Nyabugogo wetland have castigated the 30-day ultimatum given to them by the Rwanda Environment Management Agency (REMA) to vacate the area.
There are more than 20 workshops in the wetland.
The workshop operators who The New Times spoke to say the ultimatum came at a very short notice. Others say the area is very accessible by their clients.
The representative of workshop owners, Seyid Mazimpaka, said that the ultimatum doesn’t provide enough time for them to move and has left them speculating about their future.
“We are all confused, we don’t know where to go” said Mazimpaka who has been operating in the area since 2003.
The ultimatum follows a 2006 study conducted by REMA that says effluents from the workshops are hazardous to human life when washed into the surrounding wetland.
Rose Mukankomeje, the Director General of REMA, said that besides the relocation, they should build garages that are up to standard.
“We want them to move and build garages that are up to standards,” she said.
“REMA did not even hold any meetings with us before telling us to move,” a garage owner who required anonymity explained.
Israel Dufatanye, an Environment Inspection Officer who was involved in carrying out the study, said that the effluents released into the wetland contain heavy metals like mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium and others which are hazardous to human lives.
Singling out lead, he explained that beyond 0.05micro gram per litre, it becomes detrimental to the human brain, foetus, is cancerous and living organisms in the wetland can’t thrive.
“Once the chemicals are ingested by pregnant mothers they affect the growth of the,” he said.
The same garage owners were told to relocate in 2006 but adamantly refused.
Mukankomeje said that,” we are regulators so let other departments like the Ministry of Infrastructure or that of commerce play their part.”
A similar relocation exercise is already ongoing in the same proximity in Gikondo wetland where the Ministry of Commerce is conducting an evaluation exercise to compensate 98 industries which will have to move to a new industrial area in Nyandungu in Gasabo district.
But Dufatanye said that the garages are not eligible for compensation because they are illegally located.
“They can’t be compensated when they are illegally operating in designated areas,” he said.
According to the law, no one is allowed to construct or operate within 20m of the wetland.
Since its formation in 2005, REMA has designated 22 wetlands across the country.