Rwanda Environment Management Authority has called upon citizens to protect and sustainably exploit wetlands because they are a source of valuable natural infrastructure for agriculture, water storage and purification, flood buffering, fertile soils and erosion control.
The call was made ahead of the annual World Wetlands Day scheduled tomorrow February 2, meant to raise public awareness about wetland values and benefits.
The theme this year is, “Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods”, selected to demonstrate the vital role of wetlands for the future of humanity and specifically their relevance towards achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS).
“As we celebrate Rwanda’s achievements in wetlands preservation and proper use, we must continue to think about our growing population with over 70 per cent of them depending on agriculture for survival-including those who depend on wetland farming,” Dr Rose Mukankomeje, director general of REMA said in a press release on Friday.
She called for the protection of wetlands so as to maximise benefits from its vital resources.
We urge all citizens who still have constructions and other illegal infrastructure in the wetlands to relocate them in order to reduce and eventually stop wetlands degradation, she added.
Wetlands are vital in many ways. They livelihoods from fishing, rice farming, tourism, and water provision , host a huge variety of life, protect coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change .
Approximately 10.6 per cent of the Rwandan surface area is covered with wetlands.
The inventory of wetlands conducted in 2008 by REMA showed that Rwanda has 860 marshlands and 101 lakes covering a total surface of 278,536 ha and 149,487 ha, respectively.
Tuesday’s celebration is a good opportunity for Rwanda to raise awareness on activities aimed at wetlands exploitation, restoration and to build on the achievements made to achieve more and preserve the environment for the country’s present and future generations.
Rwanda has enacted laws with the intent to guarantee wetlands protection and has invested in their protection, and restoration.
Restored wetlands such as Rugezi have acquired the much-respected status of “Wetland of International Importance” or “Ramsar Site”. The country is also in the process to designate three more Ramsar sites namely Akagera, Kamiranzovu and Rweru-Mugesera wetland complex.
In recognition of its efforts in wetland conservation, Rwanda has won several awards including the Green Globe Award for the restoration of Rugezi wetland.
World Wetlands Day is an annual event which is widely celebrated on February 2.
It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (also called Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on February 2, 1971.
Rwanda signed this convention on December 29, 2003.