Rwanda's regulatory environment in support of green urban development

According to the United Nations, the proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas is expected to reach 66 per cent by 2050. Best Practices have shown that the global “urbanization”, when properly managed, may drive the economic growth of a country. It is in this regard that the Government of Rwanda has decided to include measures related to urbanization as part of its policies and strategies.

According to the United Nations, the proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas is expected to reach 66 per cent by 2050. Best Practices have shown that the global “urbanization”, when properly managed, may drive the economic growth of a country. It is in this regard that the Government of Rwanda has decided to include measures related to urbanization as part of its policies and strategies. 

As one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, Rwanda has taken measures to proactively address issues that could arise from accelerated urbanization as a result of its fast growing population as well as limited land and other natural resources. As cities grow and economic activities increase, there may be negative side effects; especially to the environment and the general wellbeing of citizens.

Rwanda is experiencing unevenly distributed urban growth which is outpacing economic development and straining its already stressed infrastructure, as well as straining electric-grid capacity, and causing housing shortages. A consequence of this uneven distribution of urban growth is an increase in the number of informal settlements (otherwise known as ‘slums’), which contribute to environmental stress and health hazards to Rwanda’s citizens.

The Ministry of Infrastructure is however optimistic and says that by 2050, following the targets on Green Growth development, Rwanda will have the robust local and regional knowledge to be able to respond and adapt to changes in the climate and the resulting impacts. The Government of Rwanda embarks on proactively supporting the positive side of urbanization correlated to economic growth and has an ambitious objective targeting a percentage of urban population; 35% by 2020, in parallel to emphasizing well planned and efficiently laid out and serviced rural settlement. It is with this concept that different strategies and measures have been put in place.

The Government of Rwanda in 2011 adopted the Green Growth and Climate Resilience National Strategy for Climate Change and Low Carbon Development (GGCRS). This was intended as a pathway to lead Rwanda towards a sustainable, secure future and prepare the country to address the risks associated with climate change, population growth and rising oil prices, while managing the environment in a sustainable manner.

Some of the solar panels located in Rwamagana District. (Timothy Kisambira)

The GGCRS outlines the strategy taken to address the negative impacts of climate change, resource efficiency, low carbon and climate resilient development for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. This Strategy also recommends actions that Rwanda can take in the short to medium term to ensure its future stability and prosperity in a changing climate and uncertain energy future.

In support of successful GGCRS implementation, the government has put in place a special delivery mechanism, Rwanda’s National Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA). This groundbreaking environment and climate change investment fund is the largest of its kind in Africa. The Fund is geared towards ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth in Rwanda by investing in green sectors of the economy through public institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, academic institutions and private sector businesses. The Fund’s resources will be used to finance green growth projects supporting strategic national development plans such as the Ministry of infrastructure (MININFRA) led Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS2). 

This work is being supported by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an International Organization based in Seoul, Republic of Korea, which signed an MoU with MININFRA in 2012 to collaborate on Rwanda’s green growth and climate resilient green cities; a key economic transformation pillar of EDPRS2.

So far, GGGI’s work in Rwanda demonstrates that it has the comparative advantage and technical resources to support the government in achieving national objectives in the Economic Development Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS2) and the Green Growth and Climate Resilient Strategy (GGCRS).  In particular, GGGI is supporting Rwanda’s implementation of the Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy II 2013-2018 (EDPRS2) in order to strengthen green urbanization, to enhance the quality of life for Rwandans growing urban population.  

GGGI’s implementation support includes the development of a green growth framework and guideline for Rwanda’s six secondary cities, including Muhanga, Rubavu, Nyagatare, Huye, Rusizi and Musanze to turn them into poles of economic growth to address the imbalanced urban growth. 

Car-free zone in downtown Kigali. (Courtesy)

Per Bertilsson, Assistant Director General and Head of the Green Growth Planning and Implementation Division at the Global Green Growth Institute explains that “the green growth framework and guidelines aims to provide an overview of the economic strengths and weaknesses of each city, as well as understand the current developmental constraints in each city. There is a National Roadmap for Green Urbanization that has been developed, and which provides key actions and the fundamentals, pillars, and pull factors for green city development and urbanization in a Rwanda context.  The Roadmap will be launched in May at the World Economic Forum in Kigali.”

Other legal frameworks relating to green growth environmental protection consists of the following:

The Organic Law No.04/2005 of April 8, 2005 Determining the Modalities of Protection, Conservation and Promotion of Environment in Rwanda was a milestone for the commitment to environmental protection. It protects wetlands, forests, water bodies and fragile ecosystems and requires environmental impact assessment before any major construction or industrial activity. Environmental Impact Assessments are mandatory for all projects, and environmental indicators are being mainstreamed into financial budgeting and planning.

A number of subsidiary legislations have been enacted for the above Organic Law, and different guidelines have been developed to guide sound environmental management. For example, 2,098 ha of lakeshores and river banks have been rehabilitated, along with 1,106 ha of related watersheds.

The Law Relating to the Planning of Land Use and Development in Rwanda, announced in 2012, regards land use plans and contains preparation and adoption processes for District land use plans in particular. The law enforces planning authority for the District Council.

In 2012, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) published a document on Disaster High Risk Zones and in 2013 the National Disaster Risk Management Plan with the objective to guide disaster risk management capacities. An early warning and monitoring system is under development and implementation will be based on recommendations drawn from the National Disaster Risk Management Plan.

Guided by the GGCRS, MINIFRA has developed policies and strategies relating to urban and rural human settlement, as well as housing and infrastructure updates and some policies to promote green development including:

The National Urbanization Policy (2015) supporting the vision of economic growth and sustainable urban settlement for urbanization based on green development principles (Policy Statement #4), including compact development and green transportation, and guided by green economic criteria (Policy Statement #8).

The National Housing Policy (2015) with the vision to facilitate access to adequate housing for all is in favor of housing development adopting green technology and building materials (Policy Statement #6), energy efficiency and proper water management principles (Policy Statement #7),  and protecting the environment (Policy Statement #8). The policy proposes to incentivize green building and growth from the side of the government, as well as green production, use of renewable energies and reuse of waste. Principles to achieve resiliency of human settlements are addressed throughout the policy.

A Ministerial Order n° 04/Cab.M/015 of 18/05/2015 Determining Urban Planning and Building Regulations emphasizes the principles of urban planning, with a strong focus on sustainability and green building. The document also enacts the Urban Planning Code and Building Code in its annexes.

The Urban Planning Code (2015) and the Building Code (2015) which are both the annexes to the above stated ministerial order, and provide technical guidelines and requirements for sustainable development in urban areas and for the construction of buildings.

The National Roadmap for green urbanization of six secondary cities, developedin partnership with GGGI, supports the Sector Strategy in the objective to support economic growth in the six secondary cities (Muhanga, Rubavu, Nyagatare, Huye, Rusizi and Musanze) in addition to City of Kigali as a regional hub.  The Road Map lays out the actions to be taken to achieve economic growth that is green and responsible, and mitigates the negative effects of economic growth by integrating requirements for green planning, technology, and production.



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