Rwf2.4 billion wetland eco-tourism park in offing

Activities to turn Nyandungu wetland into an urban wetland recreation and eco-tourism park in Kigali city will begin this week, environment management officials have said.

The Rwf2.4 billion green economy project financed by Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) seeks to increase biodiversity, reduce flood risk, raise awareness on wetland conservation, create green jobs and promote tourism. 

The wetland is located in the sectors of Nyarugunga of Kicukiro District and Ndera of Gasabo District along the special economic zone. 

“The implementation will be done by Defense Reserve Force. There are some procurement processes to get improved design on some parts,” Alphonsine Ntabana, the Coordinator of Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) at Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) told The New Times in an interview last week.

REMA says rapid growth and human activities in Kigali city have led to a decrease in diversity of bird species, habitat and other wildlife biodiversity which used to be observed when native tree species were not yet encroached on in the wetland.

The environment body observed that poor management had also increased flood risks near Nyandungu complex where pastoralists illegally graze cattle.

The project will restore and conserve wetland ecosystems on 130 hectares.

“The project will be implemented over a period of five years in two phases; phase one from 2016-2018 with biodiversity restoration and construction works while phase two to run from 2019 to 2020 will mainly focus on the long-term management of the park,” Ntabana added.

The eco-tourism park, she explained, displays different outputs namely biodiversity conservation through introduction of native trees species and terrestrial habitat restoration, aquatic habitat creation and restoration, among others.

“The process will start with clearing invasive trees (non-native species) on 26 hectares as well as carrying out laboratory analysis,” Ntabana noted.

Bordering the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Kanombe Airport and other infrastructure, environment, experts say rehabilitating the site will offset the environmental impact of the industrial zone.

The creation and restoration of habitats, REMA says, will result in the increase in bird, insect, reptile, amphibian and mammal species while attracting resident water birds and migratory species.

Recreation and tourist attractions

Officials say recreation and tourist attractions will be created so as to provide economic, social and environmental benefits to inhabitants of Kigali and visiting tourists. 

Projections indicate that the park should generate over Rwf1bn profit in the first 12 years of operation meaning approximately over Rwf83.3m every year.

Besides habitat restoration, there will also be widening of a river channel and creation of ponds to demonstrate the flood alleviation potential of wetlands and the use of reed-bed to demonstrate the pollution abatement potential of wetlands. 

The park, according to the designers, will have a network of paths, roads, boardwalks and bridges in marshy areas, toilets, nature viewing areas, bird hides and picnic areas to provide the facilities required by tourists.

“There will be trails, kiosks, picnic sites in the restored valley and others,” said Telesphore Ngoga, head of conservation at Rwanda Development Board.

According to the park master plan details, there will be an area designed for taking wedding photographs and a concession for a café or restaurant.

Furthermore, there will be a visitor centre that will explain the role of wetlands in conservation and the ecosystem services they provide that help support the Rwandan economy. It will provide a tourist attraction that will help tourism operators in generating revenues.

Officials say in total 70 green jobs will be created by the project, however, the exact number will depend on the modalities used by the principal contractor while tree propagation and planting can be undertaken by local cooperatives.

They will receive payment based on the quantities of trees and plants supplied as maintenance workers will be selected from local communities where feasible.