Environmental and agricultural scientists have embarked on the process to disinfect fish ponds in Musanze District before they can be restocked following a deadly chemical last month killed fish and other aquatic species in different water bodies in Musanze District.
This comes after investigation and laboratory analysis found that the death of fish was caused by external toxic chemicals that were discharged into water bodies, affecting the fish.
On the morning of Friday, September 21, residents of Musanze District woke up to floating lifeless fish on the different water bodies in the area, triggering a multi-agency investigation.
Three ponds which lost all their fish stocks belong to a local cooperative while the other water bodies that were affected are rivers Mukungwa and Mugara, all located in Musanze District.
The ponds draw water from River Mugara, a tributary of Mukungwa and members of COOPIBEFAMU, the cooperative that operate them say the incident was a major blow to them because their quarterly harvest was worth Rwf800, 000.
The investigations were carried out by experts from Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Ministry of Defence, Rwanda Standards Board (RSB), Ministry of Local Government, Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), and Rwanda National Police, among others.
Remy Duhuze, the director in charge of Environmental Regulations and Pollution Control at REMA, told The New Times that a laboratory analysis revealed the mass death of fish was due to external toxic chemicals and therefore disinfecting the ponds would be the solution going forward.
“We discovered that the death was caused by external toxic chemicals discarded into the rivers and therefore we have recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture embarks on the cleaning of the ponds in accordance with environmental guidelines and standards with a technical approach we have already shown them,” he said.
Dr Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director General for Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board, told The New Times that they have taken steps for the decontamination process.
“We have communication from REMA guiding us on how to proceed with the clean-up before restocking the ponds and handing them over to the farmers. The step include emptying the water from the ponds following REMA’s guidelines, cleaning and disinfecting of ponds, and repopulating the fish before we return them to the owners,” she said.
She said this process will take a month and that the cost will be met by RAB, adding that all the logistics are available.
“There is no need to disinfect the rivers because they have running water hence they disinfect naturally,” he said.
Who is the culprit?
When asked where was the source of the toxic chemicals, REMA’s Duhuze said investigations were still ongoing adding that mentioning names would be bordering on speculation.
He said that the most urgent issue was to establish the cause of the incident and that the next course of action is to bring to book whomever is responsible.
The investigation will cover all establishments that include industries and petrol stations near the banks of River Mukungwa to ascertain the source of the toxics.
After a recent case of Kigali Leather Factory discharging waste into Akagera River in Bugesera District and upon realising that the Musanze rivers and the ponds were affected by toxic chemicals, REMA has revived the inspection on sources of pollution into the rivers, wetlands and lakes, according to Duhuze.
“We have embarked on auditing all sources of pollution of the rivers and other water bodies; for those found culpable, corrective measures are prescribed and a follow up assessment is done after this,” he said adding that polluting water bodies is a punishable crime.
Under article 56 of the environmental law, whoever is found culpable of discharging non-treated toxic waste into water bodies faces imprisonment of between seven and ten years, and a fine between Rwf100 million and Rwf200 million.