By the end of March this year, the decades-old industrial park in Gikondo in Kicukiro District, will have been vacated, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM).
The complete evacuation of all business activities in the zone is part of the Government’s effort to conserve wetlands.
The park has been home to both heavy and light industries since it was set up in the 1960s with support of the European Union.
However, in 2005, the place was gazetted by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) as a wetland, becoming necessary to relocate all industrial activity from the area.
Besides heavy and light industries, the area is home to a number of facilities such as warehouses, garages among others.
Until last weekend, a total of 36 businesses still had activities running in Gikondo Industrial Park but many were trying to relocate, while for other structures were being brought down.
The effort to vacate the area kicked off mid-2013, and many of them have since relocated to the Kigali Special Economic Zone in Gasabo District.
So far, data provided by the ministry say that nine to eleven industries have moved in the second phase.
They include SARS Motors, Tolirwa, Rwanda Motors, Adma and Ameki Color.
Speaking to The New Times, Sam Kamugisha, the Director General of Industrial Development at the Trade ministry, said that they are going to accelerate the process in order to clear the swampy zone.
“Due to the high prevalence of disasters, we want to push the process harder so that all properties will have been moved at the end of March,” he said.
In preparation, Kamugisha explained that property owners in the area had already been put on notice.
The remaining industries in Gikondo, MINICOM says, have been reserved slots in the Special Economic Zones of Masaka and Gahanga, both in Kicukiro District, and another in Huye.
Telesphore Mugwiza, an industrial specialist at the ministry, said that some of the property owners have already been expropriated.
Garages, warehouses, parking lots and offices are some of the activities remaining in the park.
He also revealed that UTEXRWA and Kabuye sugar plant – which are located outside the Gikondo park but are in wetlands – will also have to move.
Among the facilities toured in Gikondo by The New Times was a large warehouse, part of which was being demolished by a group of young men, while others were evacuating merchandise from another section, yet to be razed.
The property owner, who refused to identify himself, was on ground to supervise the work.
He then waves two letters to this reporter; showing the disparity in the valuation done to his property ahead of expropriation.
“The first valuation done in 2015 gave my property value of Rwf2 billion while the most recent one put it at just Rwf500 million and that is what I am going to be given in expropriation,” he decried.
He also faulted the ministry on the short notice given to them to evacuate, saying that the expropriation law allows them a grace period of 120 days before they can relocate but they were given just a few days’ notice.
He says he does not know where to relocate his warehousing business to.
A longstanding plan
The plan to clear Gikondo Industrial Park has existed since 2011 when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between MINICOM and Rwanda Free Zones Company Ltd.
Some of the terms of the agreement included the construction of facilities in the new industrial park, where the Gikondo industries would be relocated.
Before then, government also enacted the law N° 04/2005 of 08/04/2005 determining the modalities of protection, conservation and promotion of environment in Rwanda.
Authorities say that since the enacting of this law, property owners in Gikondo wetlands knew that it was a matter of time before the wetland is vacated.
Protection of wetlands
Once the relocation is complete, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and the City of Kigali, together with other partners, plan to overhaul the area into a recreational park and green space.
Authorities have previously been quoted as saying that once all industries are relocated, they had plans to establish here an artificial lake, among other facilities.
Speaking to The New Times, REMA Director General Coletha Ruhamya said that swamps are water reservoirs and must be protected at all cost.
“Industrial wastes pollute water. These industries greatly affect the ecosystem and lead to lack of continuous water supply. They cause chemical contamination which makes it difficult to treat this water,” she said, adding that these pollutants also lead to infertility of soils.
Studies indicate that industrial waste has polluted the Gikondo wetland, which snakes through the Nyabugogo-Akagera wetland belt, eventually ending up in Lake Victoria.
Kigali comprises 73,000 ha of which 13.8 are gazetted wetlands.