The September 9, incident in which a roadside tree near Parliamentary Buildings in Kimihurura fell and killed three passengers and injured at least ten others has sparked authorities to launch a campaign against roadside trees deemed ‘old, oversized and hazardous’. Officials have since identified thousands of trees across the country, which fall in this category, and most of them have already been cut down.
Given the sensitivities associated with such action, especially in a country whose commitment to environmental protection has, in the recent years, grown unquestionable, it appears sufficient caution was taken to ensure that the decision does not constitute a setback in the country’s quest for a green environment.
Local authorities and officials from the National Forestry Authority (NAFA) have carefully identified and marked these trees to ensure that ‘harmless’ trees are not eliminated in the process, and have already communicated an immediate replacement strategy. the Minister of Forestry and Land Preparedness, Christophe Bazivamo, realized the urgency to get rid of high-risk trees, and moved so fast to sign a decree that paved the way for the massive cutting exercise.
In addition, concerned authorities have warned the population of other potential hazardous such as rocky hillsides near roads and human settlements, and floods in anticipation of the torrential rains in the coming days. Kigali City Council (KCC) also announced that it will erect a concrete wall against the sharply steep edge of the busy
now that we have a fully fledged ministry in charge of disasters, we can only expect better vigilance in preventing and responding to natural catastrophes. Local authorities should also be given the technical capacity to be able to play a central part in dealing with disasters.
It appears some grassroots leaders are already doing a good job. My village leader yesterday convened a local meeting to discuss, among other strategies, how to create channels that will enable untapped rain water to safely flow to lower areas.
In particular, communities that still reside around the wetlands should mobilize and devise strategies to avoid catastrophes similar to those we have witnessed during previous rainy seasons. And since we are cutting down some of our wind breakers, we should anticipate stronger winds and prepare more thoroughly.
There is, however, more to do in the area of fire fighting. More fire fighting equipment needs to be procured and stationed at different locations around the country.
Nonetheless, the swift move by the Ministry of Forestry and Mines, NAFA and KCC to fell trees that pose a threat to people’s lives, their importance not withstanding, embodies the commitment of the national and local government leadership to safeguarding people’s lives at whatever cost.
It is a commitment that manifested several years back in many ways including major rescue missions when the Government swiftly dispatched helicopters to airlift accident victims from crash sites, to major hospitals in Kigali for treatment. a bill the State fully takes care of.
In the same spirit, many substandard buildings have been brought down to prevent possible tragedies. All these strategies have clearly been taken in the interest of the people, the ultimate embodiment of a nation.
There is nothing better a functioning and responsible State can do in the face of any threats – human or natural – to people’s lives. Kudos to the Ministry of Forestry and Mines, NAFA and KCC.
James Munyaneza is an editor with The New Times