If dumping solid and plastic waste into Rugenge wetland and Kagina River among other water bodies is not stopped, it could trigger more floods and affect freshwater supply, experts warned. Rugenge wetland and Kagina River are located in Kicukiro sector of Kicukiro District and connect to Gikondo, Rwintare and Nyabugogo wetlands which filter the water that flows into Nyabugogo River. The Nyabugogo River is 45.97 km long, measured from the outflow of Lake Muhazi in Eastern province to its confluence with the lower Nyabarongo River near Kigali. Experts say that while the wetlands filter, store, regulate and supply fresh water when their integrity is not disturbed adding their degradation could cause a water crisis and fail to control floods. Josaphat Kanyeshuri, a researcher and lecturer in environmental studies said that Kigali wetlands could also fail to play a role in absorbing carbon dioxide which is a global warming gas. Studies show wetlands store twice as much carbon dioxide as forests. “Removing pollutants from this wetland and river is timely because people still do not understand why dumping such solid and plastic waste in wetlands is dangerous to water supply and biodiversity,” adding that the fishing industry could also be affected. When wetlands are not degraded, water never dries up and it is stored and supplied accordingly, he explained. He said there is need to carry out research to assess if water from wetlands polluted by such dumping in Kigali is safe for use. “We have also realized that chemical fertilizers are affecting water quality in wetlands and rivers because they contain heavy metals,” he said. A recent study by Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network (RCCDN) shows that increased chemical fertilizer use is linked to soil degradation, leaching, chemical runoff, water contamination and greenhouse gas emissions. Concorde Kubwimana, is the leader of a youth organization called “Save Environment Initiative” that has identified pollutants being dubbed into Rugenge wetland and Kagina River. He said that they are now discovering more solid and plastic waste being dumped while the buffer zone of Kagina River was also being encroached. “We took time to collect and dispose of such waste. It requires consistent monitoring to ensure such pollution is avoided. We have also planted bamboo along the Kagina River for protection and more efforts are needed to prevent pollution in this river along the Rugenge wetland,” he said. Rehabilitation in offing Patrick Muhoza, in Charge of International obligations at Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), told The New Times that the Rugenge wetland could be rehabilitated soon. “We have found that plastics were dumped near the river which is connected to the wetland. When it rains these plastics are washed away into water bodies which affects water supply and affects biodiversity including the fishing community. Meanwhile we are working with the World Bank to secure funding to rehabilitate polluted wetlands and control floods in Kigali,” he said. He said a recent survey has mapped wetlands including Rugenge wetland that need rehabilitation The funds, he said, are available to rehabilitate 258 hectares of Rugenge, Rwintare and lower Nyabugogo wetlands in the city of Kigali. At least €10 million has been secured for wetlands rehabilitation. The funds were secured under the support of the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) according to REMA. The initiative is part of a $175 million green urbanization project to green the City of Kigali and the six secondary cities. The rehabilitation works will include site cleaning to encourage natural regeneration, construction of flood bypass, construction of water retention ponds, planting of native and wetland plant species for water retention and purification, creation of recreational facilities, and development of new innovative instruments to engage Private sector. Today wetlands make up 10.6 percent of Rwanda’s territory with approximately 915 wetlands inventoried across the country. Of these, 38 wetlands - representing about 20 per cent of the total area - are fully protected. About 74 per cent have provisions for conditional use and 6 per cent unconditional use. In total, around 53 per cent of wetlands have been converted to agriculture while 41 per cent remain covered by natural vegetation.