Though the environmental law is clear on what activities are legal or illegal in line with its plan to go green, the City of Kigali authorities say that waste dumping continues to be their biggest challenge when it comes to protecting the city’s marshlands.
The Kigali City Council’s Environmental Protection Officer Alice Umuhorakeye partly blamed the malpractice on the failure to implement the city master plan.
“People have turned marshlands into waste dumping sites and it’s just wrong. This is perhaps because the implementation of the master plan is yet to come into force when it comes to marshlands,” she said.
A recent inventory of wetlands in Rwanda indicated that nationwide, there are 860 marshlands which cover about 11 per cent of the country’s surface area. Of these, 19 are in Kigali and spread out in 35 sectors.
Umuhorakeye explains that the city’s marshlands are classified in three categories, and each has a purpose that was set aside for it.
“We have different categories of marshlands. The first one is the category of marshlands that are protected. These are natural habitats for plants and animals.
They are mostly used to filter waste that is mostly channeled from people’s homes.
There are other marshlands that were developed by the Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with the city authorities and then handed over to cooperatives which are using them for agricultural purposes then there are those that were set aside for recreational and tourism purposes,” she said.
She further explained that when it comes to other activities, some are licensed while others were illegal.
“The fight to protect the environment is a constant one. When it comes to brick making for example, there are those licensed to carry out that activity and one of the conditions is that they should put the land back together and we are always constantly inspecting this. Wash bays or unlicensed brick making is illegal. Marshlands are meant to be protected, not polluted,” she said.
Jean Chrysostome Sehene, the Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Environmental Conservation Organization (RECOR) says NGOs like his play a role in advocacy but said that for Rwandans to understand, there was need for more awareness and sensitization.
“There should be more commitment and dedication on carrying out inspections. If a company or individual has been licensed to do something, it is important to be vigilant and follow up to check if all the provisions of the law are being adhered to. What I feel is important is to reinforce the law because it is clear. The rest is a step by step process of changing mindsets,” he said.
In a major step towards restoring some of its marshlands, the government three committed Rwf33 billion years ago to relocate factories from Gikondo industrial area.
The relocation costs included moving those with buildings in regards to the expropriation law and construction of new structures for those particular industries meant to shift to the Special Economic Zone.
So far, greening and leveling of the Gikondo area is ongoing so that people can use the area for recreational purposes.