Editorial: REMA should bear full responsibility for pollution in Akagera River

Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) has ordered the suspension of a leather factory located in Bugesera because it was intentionally polluting River Akagera that pours into the Nile. Usually, construction of any major structure has to undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). REMA is supposed to implement the assessment and then gives the investor the green light to go ahead.

That was the case when the Chinese-owned factory was cleared to build the factory. One of the conditions of the EIA was that they should build a waste treatment plant and this is where it gets interesting.

The factory reportedly pretended to build the waste treatment plant which was later found to be a sham. They secretly channeled the waste through a hidden pipe underground that poured the waste directly into the river.

The factory was fined a paltry Rwf5 million, which it has not paid but has the guts to appeal for lower fines, on top of requesting to continue operations (polluting) until their treatment plant arrives in July!

Residents have been complaining about the pollution and foul smell ever since the factory was set up in 2014 but their complaints fell on deaf ears. The questions that come to mind; what have local authorities and REMA been doing for the last four years?

This saga is definitely a pointer that REMA and local authorities are guilty of mass negligence that threatened the health of residents and beyond.

The factory might have been dishonest by trying to fool REMA. It was able to exploit the laxness it found in the authority. Whatever the case, the buck remains squarely with REMA and it should assume full responsibility.

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