Rwanda National Police (RNP) has reminded the general public to desist from environmental degradation as means to prevent disastrous effects.
Police also called on people still residing in high risk areas to relocate to safer placers as allocated by local authorities.
The call comes days after 49 people were killed by floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain that hit different parts of the country during the weekend.
In an interview, the director of the RNP’s Environmental Protection Unit (EPU), Supt. Modeste Mbabazi, noted that there are still people, who encroach on reserved habitat like forests and even build houses in high risk zones.
EPU is mandated to protect the environment in all aspects, including air space, forestry and biodiversity, as well as the enforcement of different legal instruments that protect environment.
“There are still many activities in different parts of the country that affect the environment. We still experience tendencies of illegal mining, cutting down trees including in gazetted areas or forestry reserves and national parks; building houses in high risk zones or violating housing standards, which are punishable by the law, on one hand, but can as well result into loss of lives on another hand,” Supt. Mbabazi said.
“Acts like cutting down trees can lead to soil erosion and landslides, and when such happens, families living nearby become victims. Some of the man-made forests are planted in hilly or high risk zones to prevent the soil from being washed away, this situation is sometimes complicated more by the global climate change. ”
On the issue of people that still reside or build in high risk zones, he advised them to relocate to safe zones allocated in their respective districts.
About 20 districts that have people residing in disaster-prone areas have allocated places where people can relocate.
Police are among the institutions that constitute a Disaster Steering Technical Committee (DSTC) established in 2013 and tasked with coordinating responses to disasters.
On the issue of illegal mining, he was quick to note that this is partly as a result of the current sorry state of water bodies including muddy River Nyabarongo.
A survey by RNP’s Environmental Protection Unit and the Ministry of Natural Resources released in December last year revealed gross pollution of the country’s longest river through human activities like illegal mining and encroachment on both river banks that has caused gross erosion.
Supt. Mbabazi said such substandard mining activities contravene the penal code.
He appealed to families living near forests, game reserves and mining concessions to always share timely information with police in case they spot any unlawful activities happening.