The world is confronted with pressing economic and environmental challenges and consequently both national and international efforts to promote green growth as an imperative have been intensifying in recent years. Building on this momentum, Rwanda recently celebrated the green growth week starting 6th to 8th December 2017 with various activities and meetings in which serious presentations and discussions were made on how we can begin to convert a lot of the theories and academic research on green growth into practical and visible solutions.
For those new to the term, green growth means carefully fostering economic growth and development while ensuring environmental protection. In other words letting our actions demonstrate that we have an understanding that our well-being and that of our grand and great grandchildren relies heavily on natural assets and resources. Rapid urbanization has indeed seen the world continue to face a twin challenge: on one hand is the expansion of economic opportunities for all in the context of a growing global population; and on the other the pressing need to address environmental pressures that, if left unaddressed, will undermine our ability to seize these opportunities.
Now, when developing countries like Rwanda show consistent interest in achieving green growth, the benefits are immense. Obviously, there is reduction or mitigation of economic and social impacts of environmental degradation such as climate change, severe economic, social and ecological threats from energy, food and water insecurity, premature deaths due to pollution, poor water quality and diseases associated with a changing climate, all of which are factors that undermine a nation’s development.
Therefore green growth has become the sustainable option where these two challenges meet and its rational is about exploiting the opportunities to realize the two together. Mr. Innocent Kabenga, the Global Growth Initiative Green (GGGI) country representative reminded us in a workshop at the Kigali convention center how happy the world was before we (a couple of generations) were born. There were much more resources, much less ecological footprint and it was a nice place for the generations then to be in. The alarming growth and development continues to erode our natural capital and day-by-day we are confronted with increasing and more difficult challenges that are a reflection of our very own actions. During my presentation on ‘innovative strategies for wetland management’, I shared my belief and a philosophical statement that green growth is indeed a promising vehicle that can deliver us all to the back old happy days even today and in the future. My humble hope is that we can all jump in and move together.
The state minister of infrastructure Hon. Eng. Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye reined us of the government’s vision to move fast and far, while sending a caution to professionals and technicians in the construction industry who are not keen to implement the recommended construction ethics and regulations. He invited us all to think more seriously about green growth as a paradigm shift not just the business as usual tendencies to deliberately cover up our inconsistencies in practice, promoting the sector’s economic interests at the disadvantage of the environmental concerns. The presidents of the various construction sector related institutions present also echoed the sentiments of Hon. Minister and there is really no other choice other than to comply. Moreover, living in a healthy environment benefits us all and is admirable to us all. Therefore we must all participate in ensuring appropriate environmental protection.
The message through the various presentations and discussion was clear; that green growth is an important component for sustainable development. It offers very practical and flexible approach for achieving concrete, measurable progress across its economic and environmental pillars, while taking full account of the social consequences of greening the growth dynamic of economies. Ms. Fatou Diaye of SKAT explained passionately how the act of changing simple things like the type of bricks, the construction method and/or the layout of buildings can save the country lots of resources used to import construction materials from outside Rwanda. This, she argues is a conduit for the loss of our money and employment to other countries. She emphasized on the need for the construction industry to urgently embrace innovative solutions that use less energy, less money but at the same time give double output and productivity hence ensuring that natural assets can deliver their full economic potential on a sustainable basis.
During one of the workshop sessions on Sustainable Built Environment, SKAT, STRAWTEC, MASS group and The University Of Rwanda (UR) demonstrated how they are responding to sustainable development and in turn nation building through research, and/or practical work in ensuring greater efficiency in the use of natural resources, reducing waste and energy consumption, unlocking opportunities for innovation and value creation, and allocating resources to the highest value use.
Green growth is a matter of both economic policy and sustainable development policy that forms significant steak for every country. The road map to green growth is clear; there are indeed abundant checklists and indicators for us to measure how green our developments and projects are. This emphasis on the ‘green’ growth’ narrative offers us all as stakeholders in the construction industry a more optimistic view about short and long-term growth prospects. The key insight here is that green growth is no longer a luxury but a key imperative to tackle climate change and embracing this narrative and offers a win win situation whereby several other and interlinked challenges will be tackled.
The writer is a lecturer at the school of Architecture, University of Rwanda. An architect and urban designer with keen interest on the dialectical relations between Architecture and Society.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.