Research has found that at least seven species of natural plants in wetlands need to be protected because they are able to clean and remove heavy metals (pollutants) from wetlands water and soil.
The findings also indicate that the plants were found to have the capability to fix nutrients in soil and can be turned into organic manure that has the same fertile capacity as that of manufactured fertilisers.
The study was carried out by Dr Elias Bizuru, a biodiversity conservation researcher and director of research, innovation, and post graduate studies at University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology. It was presented Thursday during the sixth annual research conference by the Institute of Policy Analysis (IPAR) themed, ‘Secure biodiversity and ensure management of natural resources toward sustainable development’.
He said the experiment was conducted in Ndobogo wetland in the Southern Province by investigating species such as digitaria velutina, oryza sativa, cyperus latifolius and persiaria senegalensis.
“Our research found that such species have a cleaning role by removing heavy metals from the environment and also retaining fertilizer components. We are going to conduct another research on how those plants can be transformed into organic manure,” he told the media.
The study concludes that natural swamps play a key role as ‘kidney’ of the region by removing pollutants from agriculture sector and elsewhere from the water while also having high capacity for nutrients fixation.
“We need an urgent plan for sustainable swamps management to maintain their ecosystems function and services.
Eng. Collette Ruhamya, the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority, urged the researchers to ensure that the research paper was presented to all concerned institutions so that it is used to serve the community.
“The research was carried out – along with students. We must ensure that the findings are put into practice so that the graduates invest in organic manure production when they join the labour market,” she said.
The study also recommended that all swamps retain one side for agriculture and the other for the species along the swamps to clean the water from pollutants and also turned into organic manure for agricultural swamps.
The executive director of IPAR, Eugenia Kayitesi, said such studies were crucial for sustainable development as far as biodiversity is concerned, adding that if the research findings are not considered the country would be prone to loss of revenues through biodiversity loss, land degradation, climate change and others.
Pressure on land, biodiversity
Fatina Mukarubibi, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources, said: “Global economics have to go in line with sustainable use of ecosystems against rapid population pressure. Rwanda recognises the linkage between biodiversity and economics because biodiversity plays a big role in generating revenues”.
She called for efforts in implementing researchers’ findings since it was an opportunity to ensure sustainable management of natural resources including land, wetlands and biodiversity in general.
The meeting discussed the nexus between economic development and natural resources, policies for biodiversity and natural resources, role of national capital accounting and data requirements and prospects of biodiversity and natural resources management for sustainable development.
Mukarubibi said there was need for enforcement efforts to respect master plans because arable land and land for biodiversity conservation were being exhausted due to rapid population growth.
Dr Claudine Uwera, an environmental economist, said the average size among plots classified as agricultural land declined by some 0.5 % from the beginning of 2014 to the beginning of 2015 while residential parcels increased by 0.6 percent.