Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has warned that industries polluting wetlands, lakes and rivers with toxic waste and waste water will be closed and face severe punitive measures as stipulated in new environment regulations.
In a bid to sensitise industrialists on the new legislation regarding polluting water bodies, the authority on Friday met 57 managers of industries operating in the Special Economic Zone and other areas.
Industrialists from the zone were specifically cautioned against polluting Nyandungu Wetland, located just below the industrial park.
Remy Duhuze, the director of environmental regulations and pollution control at REMA, explained that the watchdog has observed deliberately discharged untreated blue and reddish waste from Special Economic Zone into Nyandungu wetland downstream.
Inspections established waste water from Kigali Leather Factory being discharged into Akagera River which triggered its recent closure while the other example is the hexane toxic waste that was discharged into River Mukungwa, killing thousands of fish and other aquatics in Musanze District.
Duhuze said that in Kigali’s Special Economic Zone, there is need for three environmental friendly systems to avoid polluting Nyandungu wetland.
“There is a central sewerage treatment system but it does not operate as factories are yet to be connected to it. There is need for waste water treatment plants but some factories do not have such treatment systems and there are storm water drainage channels but these do not have systems that retain solid debris before channeling water into the wetland,” he said
He added that factories without waste water treatment plants discharge waste into storm water channels which go on to pollute the wetland.
“Nyandungu Urban Wetland Eco-tourism Project around the industrial zone aims at restoring and conserving ecosystems on 134 hectares but will need compliance of industrial activities undertaken upstream the catchment in special economic zone.
The Rwf2.4bn green economy project is financed by Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) and is expected to generate over Rwf1bn in profit in the first 12 years of operation every year.
According to Egide Mukono, the project engineer of Kigali Special Economic Zone, it was initially planned to group industries in zones with similarities in what they produce so as to join efforts and ease installation of effluent treatment systems.
He, however, said there were challenges that impeded the move which now requires that each factory gets its own effluent treatment system.
Article 56 of the new law says that any person who buys, sells, imports, conveys in transit, stores, immerses, buries, burns or uses any other means that may lead to decomposition of toxic waste in a place and which may be harmful to human beings or environment is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years and not more than ten years.
Besides that, it sets fines for industries that may deliberately pollute the environment at between Rwf100m and 200 million.
“In the previous law, fines were not more than Rwf5 million but we have increased them to prevent such deliberate pollution,” Mukono said.
Any industries discharging toxic waste into water bodies risk to be fined and closed if they do not comply with the laws, he stressed.
But there are challenges in law enforcement, officials said, and these include inadequate self-control of emissions among industries, inadequate waste water disposals and plant to treat industrial wastes, and the incapacity of REMA to regularly inspect every industry.
Industrialists speak out
Speaking to The New Times, Anand Moro, the managing director of Matelas Dodoma, a mattress manufacturing plant, called for a centralised waste treatment system, adding that it was expensive for each factory to have its own treatment facility.
“As an authority that controls environment pollution, REMA should come every six months to monitor what is happening in terms of compliance in the industrial zone and also advise on how to do things where necessary,” he said.
He added that some investors are not aware of some environment polluting systems and, therefore, need guidance and close monitoring.
Augustin Ngamije, the managing director of Esperanza Limited, a liquor processing plant, asked REMA to help map out all raw materials and inputs in factories that can pollute the environment, which he said would be a good guide for them.