Extreme weather costs 10% of national budget – Biruta

Minister for Environment Vincent Biruta. Sam Ngendahimana.

The Minister for Environment Vincent Biruta says climate warming has a negative impact on the lives on Rwandans and affects about ten per cent of the national budget and called for joint efforts to reverse the trend.

He was speaking during the National Urban Forum which discussed building cities’ resilience to climate change last week.

“Urbanization is a priority for Rwanda. As the most densely populated nation on the continent and with citizens moving to the cities at a rate more than twice the global average, we need best practices in urbanization in line with green growth,” he said.

He said that natural disasters that include floods and landslides are set to increase unless something is done to grow cities in ways that are more attuned to nature.

“There is need for partnerships of the government with the private sector, civil society and others to ensure green, clean and sustainable development. The flooding at Nyabugogo is a regular reminder that unless we design, build and retrofit our urban areas to be resilient to climate change, then we are likely to face repair bills that are simply unsustainable,” he said.

Biruta said that according to the World Bank, 42 per cent of economic losses in the housing sector in countries like Rwanda was due to flooding.

“Without significant investment to make cities more resilient, it is predicted that by 2030, natural disasters may cost cities $314 billion a year. Building a resilient green city, requires to be aware of these risks. There are some immediate and cost effective ways to reduce the impact of climate change and natural disasters in our urban areas,” he said.

“In Kigali, we must begin relocating over 7,000 economic activities in the city’s wetlands. These factories, garages, houses and car parks are hampering the city’s ability to cope with flooding and are putting others at risk as well, he noted”.

Once theactivities have moved, the official said, they will continue to rehabilitate wetlands and invest in flooding management infrastructures such as artificial lakes and ponds.

“This infrastructure builds resilience to floods and then water stored there can be used for multiple purposes which boost our ability to adapt to climate change,” he explained.

Another flood management tool is rainwater harvesting.From household’s tanks to industrial scale water storage, rain water has the duel benefit of reducing runoff water and capturing water for use, especially during the dry season. We also need to plant more trees in our gardens, along roadsides, in public spaces and parks, he remarked.

Minister Biruta said that the development of Nyandungu urban wetland ecotourism park and restoration of forests on the hills of Rebero , Kigali and Jali supports the efforts to create green spaces and climate resilience as a practical way to mitigate global warming.

Green transport

He added that green transport including electric cars, bikes and buses are also an important part of sustainable cities.

“We are working on e-mobility feasibility study and we will soon roll out electric motorbikes. We are also investigating the use of cable cars as an effective mass transit solution,” he said.

In partnership with green growth institute and support from Germany, he said, they are completing a feasibility study for a green city pilot project which will be constructed on a 620-hectare site in Kinyinya sector.

“The ongoing process to develop secondary cities that are green and climate resilient is for green urbanization. There is need to use local construction materials paired with smart designs so that we reduce the need for costly and energy hungry air conditioning,” he said.

The Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA), Herbert Ruzibiza, highlighted the importance of climate finance and green bonds for sustainable urbanization to make cities resilient to climate change.