With Rwanda's great ambitions in the infrastructure sector, officials have hinted at the need to embrace engineered geosynthetics and recycled materials for resilient, sustainable and cost-effective civil engineering. On Tuesday, March 21, a geotechnical seminar held under the patronage of the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) and the Institution of Engineers of Rwanda, attracted stakeholders in the engineering sector including government officials and private engineers, to talk about some of the available geotechnical solutions. Special guests included Minister of Infrastructure, Ernest Nsabimana, the Polish Ambassador to Rwanda, Krzysztof Buzalski, Director General of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Juliet Kabera, and the Vice-Mayor of Kigali, Merard Mpabwanamaguru. During the seminar, The Pietrucha Group, a Polish company that manufactures and distributes geosynthetic products in 34 countries on five continents, took participants through a number of geotechnical products and their application as solutions to various civil engineering challenges. Pietrucha’s products range from geogrids and vinyl sheet piles among others which can be used in road construction as well as water-related projects such as the protection and reinforcement of riverbeds, flooding control, water flow regulation, and others. The range of products proposed by the Pietrucha Group also include specific bio-geocomposite materials that are integrated with local grass seeds to provide greening, beautification and erosion control on slopes. Speaking in a media interview, the CEO of the Pietrucha Group, Jerzy Pietrucha, said the company’s solutions are ideal for reducing the cost and time of construction. “In terms of product cost and the cost of installation, you can save up to 30 percent using these geotechnical solutions as compared to steel, for example,” he said. He also noted that these geotechnical solutions are environment-friendly, where for instance, the company’s vinyl sheet piling products come from recycled plastics. “And in the installation of those products, you will find much smaller carbon footprints than in the case of traditional materials like steel or concrete,” he said. In his opening speech, the Minister of Infrastructure highlighted the need to migrate from traditional to innovative geotechnical solutions for civil engineering towards developing resilient, sustainable and cost-effective infrastructure. “These solutions will not only create sustainable and green environment but also build engineering capacity for human and economic development on the African continent,” he said. Merard Mpabwanamaguru, Kigali’s Vice-Mayor in charge of Urbanisation and Infrastructure, told The New Times that to avail infrastructure, there is a need for different materials for example these alternative geosynthetic ones. “For example, vinyl sheet piles can be used in different infrastructure constructions such as stabilizing land where the soil is fragile,” he said. “Given the topography of Kigali, the adoption of geosynthetic solutions can help us to speed up construction as well as having sustainable infrastructure.” Mpabwanamaguru also hinted on the use of such solutions in regulating storm water through constructing retention ponds where water can be collected and released at a lower speed. Currently, Rwanda has only 10 geotechnical engineers, and according to Krysztof Buzalski, the Polish ambassador to Rwanda, this challenge has to be addressed. “With the determination of the government of Rwanda, the Rwandan embassy in Poland, the government of Poland and our embassy, I believe we can do it together,” he noted. He highlighted the significance of innovation and modern technologies in civil and hydrotechnical engineering, saying they are so important in addressing the risks of extreme weather and environmental conditions. In the coming week, the engineers from the Pietrucha Group will be touring the provinces of Rwanda to gather a maximum of data on the local issues including landslides, heavy erosion, gullies, wetlands to rehabilitate and adequately respond to the challenges in infrastructure projects in collaboration with Rwandan institutions and companies both in the public and private sector.