KIGALI - When Asbestos was banned in Rwanda, owners of buildings started pulling down all materials made out of the dangerous material.
Now, the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) has issued a stern warning against poor disposal of the building materials.
Speaking to the press yesterday evening, the Minister of Infrastructure, Vincent Karega, said that the Ministry had set up a team of experts, who are going to work on the process of removing the roofing materials in a safer manner.
“We have sought expertise of a specialist from Canada to advise us on how we can do it well and to also provide the tools which will be used to dispose of the materials without causing any bad effects,” Karega said.
“We have had reports that some people have begun doing it by themselves which is dangerous because it affects those who remove it without proper protective gear and even people nearby.”
“If not disturbed, the materials cannot pose any danger, so I call upon people to be patient until the right tools for doing the work are availed,” he added.
Asbestos fiber is a strong material which holds excellent heat and chemical resistant properties. It is a dangerous indoor air pollutant and hazardous to human and animal health.
Health experts say that the material has dangerous substances which cause health problems to those who live and work in buildings which contain the fibre, and it is said that the effects of the chemical are slow and dangerous.
Asbestos is medically known to cause a variety of diseases such as lung cancer, mesotheloima, pleural plaque and asbestosis. After exposure to asbestos, symptoms and negative health effects may not be experienced immediately.
In Rwanda, asbestos which was predominantly used in roofing is found on government structures like hospitals and schools.
The government had last year set a six-months- ultimatum for the removal of the material but later changed its mind.
“Right now, we are not sure about the period which this will take because our experts are still doing the feasibility study, but from the look of things, it is going to be a gradual process since it needs to be done with extra care,” the Minister said.
According to Karega, the feasibility study which has only covered 15 districts has discovered 68,000 square kilometres of asbestos roofed houses.
He also said that in the Health Ministry alone, it would cost the government over Rwf2 billion for removing the materials only, without considering the replacement.
Rwanda will be the first country in Africa to effect the removal of Asbestos. Other countries that have been successful in the exercise are Canada, Japan and some her European countries.