Burera residents tipped on dangers of air pollution

Officials and some residents of Burera District in community works to plant napier grass in the buffer zone of Lake Burera in efforts to protect the lake. / Régis Umurengezi

It is every Rwandan’s responsibility, regardless of occupation and status, to fight air pollution to ensure cleaner air, an official has said.

The deputy director of Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), Faustin Munyazikwiye, made the observation Tuesday in Burera District during an event in which 100 households were given solar systems.

The event was part of the ongoing national environment campaign that started last weekend. 

As part of the campaign, officials from REMA also joined Burera residents in a community exercise of planting napier grass in the buffer zone of Lake Burera to help protect the water body. 

Addressing residents, Munyazikwiye noted that air pollution is a global threat that claims millions of lives every year.

The deputy director of Rwanda Environmental Management Authority, called on the residents to switch from cooking with wood and charcoal to cleaner alternatives such as gas, electricity and biogas. / Régis Umurengezi

According to the 2017 State of Global Air Report, long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to the deaths of 6.1 million people in 2016, through diseases like stroke, heart attack and lung cancer, among others.

Munyazikwiye revealed that the same threat is also real in Rwanda, where, in 2016 at least 2,227 people died of acute respiratory infections associated ambient air pollution.

The victims, he said, were not just in urban centres, but also in rural areas.

“The air that we breathe is normally polluted by various things such as burning wastes and vehicle emissions while domestic biomass cooking stoves from wood and charcoal and open fire burning in fields are the primary contributor to poor air quality in residential and rural areas,” he noted.

Munyazikwiye particularly urged rural residents to desist from burning wastes, especially those from farms as they can easily decompose and transformed into natural fertiliser.

He implored the residents to adopt cleaner cooking alternatives such as gas, electricity and biogas.

Florence Uwambajemariya, the Mayor of Burera, said the district is in the process of relocating households from high risk zones to new model villages connected to electricity. The relocated residents have also been given cows.

“Residents in the model villages no longer use firewood or charcoal for cooking, they have since switched to biogas because they have cows and have been provided with technical assistance to set up biogas infrastructure,” she noted.

Residents said they understood their role in environment protection and will henceforth contribute positively.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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