KIGALI - Rwanda on Tuesday received the Green Globe Award in recognition to its efforts to restore the Rugezi-Bulera-Ruhondo wetland.
The award was announced by the World Wetland Network during a ceremony held in Nagoya, Japan on October 26, 2010.
Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, the head of Rwanda’s Environmental Management Agency (REMA), said that the award recognises the efforts of the government and the commitment to environmental conservation.
“Rugezi wetland is a testimony of the government’s efforts towards sustainable management of natural resources for development,” said Mukankomeje.
“Its restoration brings ecological and societal benefits because on one hand, this ecosystem serves as a corridor for migratory birds and fishes, and provides habitat to many species of plants and animals, including endangered and threatened species. On the other hand, this wetland has a global component and at the same time it is a water reservoir for hydropower which provides electricity for our people”.
The natural ecological harmony of the Rugezi – Bulera-Ruhondo wetland had been severely altered due to drainage, clearing, filling and reclamation for cash crop production, overgrazing by livestock, over-harvesting of non-timber products and poaching.
With the intervention of REMA, the damage to the wetland has been reversed and the area is now characterized by lush green vegetation and rich fauna including the endangered Grauer’s swamp warbler (the semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope, and the globally threatened Papyrus Yellow Warbler).
President Paul Kagame, a leading voice on global environmental protection, has supported the restoration of the Rugezi wetland.
Speaking at the inaugural Times/Smith School World Forum held in Oxford in July 2009, President Kagame talked at length about the Rugezi Wetlands, noting that the government could not sit back and watch as it deteriorated.
“We simply could not continue with business as usual. In the case of the Rugezi Wetlands, resettlement of human population, removal of cattle, and tree planting has seen the resurgence of this national asset with multiplier effects on other socioeconomic sectors,” President Kagame said.
“Not only is the biodiversity recovering, so is the economic infrastructure that had previously ceased to operate. Today the hydropower plants supported by the Rugezi marshland are operating at nearly full capacity, reducing by half the use of diesel generators”.
Rwanda was selected as the winner of the Green Globe Award after a voting process carried out by wetland NGOs running from July to September 2010. Around 500 wetland NGOs from all over the world cast over 400 votes for 133 wetlands located in several parts of the world.
It won the Green Globe Award category in the African region for the restoration of the Rugezi- Bulera-Ruhondo wetland while Tanzania won the Blue Globe Award for best practice in wetland management of the Lake Natron basin and Morocco got the Grey Globe Award for protection of the Embouchure de la Moulouya wetland which was under threat.
The World Wetland Network (WWN) is an international group of wetland NGOs formed at the Ramsar COP10 in South Korea, in 2008. WWN aims to support wetland NGO’s to engage more fully in international wetland conservation efforts, to recognise and support their role, and to raise awareness of threats to international wetlands.
The NGO International Wetland Awards scheme is designed to recognise the best and worst cases of management, or mismanagement, of internationally important wetlands, from the view point of civil society groups.
WWN is made up of grassroots wetland organisations, and owes no allegiance to any country or international body.