Environment experts have cited poor coordination among regional wetland management organisations and development projects which encroach on wetlands as a threat to wetland conservation.
The regional experts from Ramsar Center for Eastern Africa (RAMCEA) sounded the warning during a meeting to share experiences and challenges on wetland preservation in the East African Community (EAC), in Kigali recently.
This calls for more concerted efforts from EAC member countries to protect wetlands. In the spirit of integration and mitigating effects of climate change, EAC member states should move fast to address the problem. Effects of climate change have no boundaries and can affect the entire region, even if just one member country ignores the urgent need to ensure that wetlands are protected as one of the measures to mitigate climate change.
For Rwanda, a lot has been done to put in place robust policies and strategies to conserve wetlands. In 2010 the country received the internationally renowned ‘Green Globe Award’ for its efforts in restoring the Rugezi highland wetland, a unique Ramsar site. The government is also in the process of selecting new Ramsar sites, including Akagera, Kamiranzovu and Rweru-Mugesera complex as part of plans to have atleast four Ramsar sites in the country.
However, despite these efforts, a lot more needs to be done because wetland encroachment is still a problem in the country. More sensitization campaigns across the region about the dangers of encroaching on wetlands should be intensified because wetland restoration is costly and the impact of climate change on wetlands is real.
But these efforts should not stifle development. Economic development and wetland management can be balanced sustainably if regional environment protection bodies join hands to address the causes of encroachment on wetlands within East Africa.