Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) has begun another round of enforcing its mandate of protecting the environment by shutting down several businesses located in marshlands.
Environmental protection has been one of the government’s priorities and over the years, it has put in place several laws, regulations and guidelines to that effect. One could say that REMA’s flagship success has been the implementation of the ban on plastic bags, but the same cannot be said for other areas.
A few years ago, it managed to relocate motor vehicle garages that were contaminating Kacyiru wetlands but other activities continued unhindered. The enthusiasm seems to have been deflated.
While it could be argued that most businesses in the marshlands operated legally with the necessary papers from local authorities, many got authorization because of lax enforcement of laws. How can a building rise up in a protected swamp right under the nose of local authorities?
Now it is going to cost the government billions to relocate someone who was not supposed to be there in the first place.
Nothing will be gained in the blame game, what matters most is sorting things out in a manner that will satisfy all parties. Environmental mistakes can be very expensive and sometimes the damage is irreversible.
Rwanda is one of the few countries that jealously guard their environment and its population is cooperative in implementing government policies. But like in any other societies, once oversight and enforcement are absent, matters go out of hand.
By now REMA must have learnt a few lessons of the consequences of laxity, but it still has time to redeem itself by stamping down on marshland encroachment.