A golf course project in Kigali has been suspended over environmental concerns as the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) moves to act against those it deems have illegally encroached on wetlands.
The works on the country club project, that is being undertaken by All Africa Golf Construction Company in the golf course turf on the marshland in Nyarutarama, an upscale Kigali suburb, were temporarily halted on Saturday following an inspection tour by a REMA official.
The firm was contracted by NAS Investments, which reached a deal with Rwanda Golf Union to put up the proposed 18-hole Kigali Golf Club course, that would include a new luxury golf country club.
It had been expected that the works would be completed in September 2016.
Remy Duhuze, the director of environment regulations and pollution control unit at REMA, said those behind the project had proceeded without paying attention to specific guidelines provided by the authority.
The marshland in question stretches from around King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, and includes swathes of land straddling Kacyiru (around Mama Sportif and Red Cross), UTEXRWA in Kinamba to Nyabugogo.
Duhuze was outraged that the golf company had ignored REMA’s instructions, including a requirement not to import soil in to compact the ground.
“The strange, inappropriate soil which is not clay erodes the marshland the capacity to absorb water during heavy rains. The accepted clay soil absorbs water and reduces flooding, restores and reserves water used during drought as part of adaptation and vital means of storing carbon to mitigate climate change effects,” Duhuze explained.
He pointed to an environmental impact assessment he said was conducted with the involvement of Golf Hotel owners, which indicated that Nyabugogo and its suburbs could be flooded if the marshland section in Nyarutarama was to be degraded.
Environment impact assessment is a process that entails evaluation of likely environment impacts of a proposed project on its related surroundings.
It takes into account inter-related socio-economic, human-health impact both negative and positive.
Contrary to the assessment results and a ministerial order, the company has been fetching the reddish soil from the uphill and dumping it in the marshland, the REMA officials said.
“Construction activities should be stopped for 30 days until mistakes are corrected,” he said, adding that a fine of Rwf5m will also be paid before opening dialogue as required by law number 04/2005 of 08/04/2005 regulating environment protection.
Johnston Darran, the project supervisior who was found at the site, said they were open to dialogue to resolve the issues.
Nyamuko wetland degraded
Also inspected was Nyamuko marshland bordering Kimironko and Bumbogo sectors, in Gasabo District, where heaps of sand were found dumped in the area.
In the same marshland and water fountain, cowsheds have been constructed.
“This soil is blocking a natural source of water. Night excavators of sand also block the source. We used to have another source of water here, but it is no longer available,” Olive Fabiola Itahabaye, a resident of Kimironko, said.
Richard Gatsigazi, a grassroots leader, said the village council had earmarked the place for construction of an entertainment facility, but nobody had brought the issue of marshland to their attention.
Dr Rose Mukankomeje, the director-general of REMA, put those involved in illegal activities on wetlands on notice, saying their works or operations will be stopped and slapped with fines.
Duhuze said different businesses and residential areas in the City of Kigali and elsewhere in the country were more prone to floods than ever before because of degradation of marshlands, especially due to construction activities.
Under environmental regulations, agriculture and construction activities are supposed to start from a radius of 20 metres away from a marshland, while cowsheds must start within a radius of 60 metres.
“We had warned them to stop, but they did not. So it is now enforcement time. If degradation continues unabated these areas will be left prone to serious floods,” Mukankomeje said.
Approximately 10.6 per cent of Rwanda’s surface area is covered with wetlands. The country has a total of 867 marshlands.
Globally, 64 per cent of wetlands have disappeared since 1900.
Residents called on authorities to take master plans to local levels to enlighten residents at the grassroots on marshland boundaries to avoid encroachment.