Relocating some of the major establishments set up in marshlands will take time as it requires a big budget from government, the Minister for Environment Vincent Biruta told Parliament on Friday.
He was speaking to members of the senatorial committee on agriculture and environment as they worked on amending the environment to include articles that are in line with some of the international conventions to which Rwanda has recently assented.
The most pressing aspects in the revised legislation are related to Climate Change.
During the meeting, MPs raised concerns that even the existing law has not been effectively followed to the letter citing the continued existence of many activities in marshlands and other gazetted areas as stipulated in the law.
MP Gabriel Semasaka said even with the current law that has enough safeguards against environment degradation, people still maintain activities in reserved areas.
“For example, the law says people have to live at least 50 metres from banks of any river or lake among others in order to protect the biodiversity but it’s never followed, we see activities being established every day, and the old ones are not being moved. How will the new law deal with this issue?” he asked.
Speciose Mukandutiye said there are even some residential dwellings which are located in marshlands and nothing is being done to relocate those people.
“For example, that neighbourhood known as ‘Bannyahe’, if I’m not mistaken, some houses there are set up in a marshland and they were supposed to be relocated, what is the progress?” she asked.
Biruta said moving all activities from marshlands and other protected areas require time and a lot of resources and that government will need enough budget to ensure every establishment is relocated from gazetted areas.
However, not all activities in marshlands and protected areas will be compensated by the government, the minister told the legislators.
He said activities in marshlands and other protected areas are divided into different categories according to how they were set up there.
Some people set up their activities without any approval, some have title deeds but never sought approval to set up the activities they have, while there are others with land titles and had authorization to set up activities in accordance with provisions of the old laws.
“Those who set up activities in marshlands without any authorisation have been asked to immediately relocate and they will not be compensated by government. Actually, they should have paid for damages they caused to the environment, and the law stipulates some punishments,” he said.
He said that those who used the land titles to set up unauthorised activities in protected areas have been given some limited time to relocate their businesses.
Those who were given documents to set up what was stipulated in the old laws, like those with industries, they will gradually be relocated because of the budget required.
“They will be relocated slowly like we have started in the former Gikondo industrial zone. Every year, government relocates few activities according to the available budget,” he said.
However, the Minister told The New Times that the needed budget to relocate all concerned activities across the country is not yet known as it requires a professional expertise to put the real value to every concerned activity.
Local leaders blamed
Biruta said some local leaders indulge in corruption to turn a blind eye as people set up such activities in protected areas.
“For example, in this festive season when people are busy with Christmas and new year celebrations, others are gathering construction materials and after few days, the problem will be on how to evict the family for environment protection,” he said.
He reminded all Rwandans including local leaders to take part in protecting the environment to safeguard the country for future generations.