Environmentalists raise concern over Nyungwe park road

RUSIZI- Environmentalists have called for an assessment study on the ongoing upgrade of the Pindura-Bweyeye road, after fears emerged that the construction could affect bio-diversity in the Nyungwe National Park .The upgrading of the road, which links Bweyeye sector to the main Nyamagabe to Rusizi road through Nyungwe National Park, kicked off in 2010 and was supposed to last eight months.
Patrice Nzamuye demonstrates one of the affected zones in the park. (Photo J P Bucyensenge)
Patrice Nzamuye demonstrates one of the affected zones in the park. (Photo J P Bucyensenge)

RUSIZI- Environmentalists have called for an assessment study on the ongoing upgrade of the Pindura-Bweyeye road, after fears emerged that the construction could affect bio-diversity in the Nyungwe National Park .

The upgrading of the road, which links Bweyeye sector to the main Nyamagabe to Rusizi road through Nyungwe National Park, kicked off in 2010 and was supposed to last eight months.

During a recent trip to the park, conservationists and environmental activists told The New Times that the way activities are conducted could affect the park’s bio-diversity.

At some points of the 33km long road network, there is evidence of soil erosion along the hillsides that affects wild grass.

Conservationists have also drawn concern on the use of laterite soil from the park in the construction process of the road.

“What we need is that those constructing the road establish a clear and comprehensive mechanism to restore the natural atmosphere where they will have destroyed.  There are trees which are cut, while grass and soils are taken away.

We need to know who will restore them and how it will be done,” said Patrice Nzamuye, the Protection and Law Enforcement Warden in Nyungwe National Park.

For Fidele Ruzigandekwe, an official and activist from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an international organisation, which has been involved in Nyungwe protection for the last 25 years, there is a need to carry out a study on how the construction might be conducted without harming the park’s ecosystem.

“The study might set guidelines and principles on how to pay attention to plants and other life. This is an area protected by law, so it should be regarded within that framework and treated accordingly,” he observed.

“The road is very important, but so is the safety of the wildlife.”

Nyungwe National Park is home to over 12 species of primates, 275 types of birds and a variety of plants.

In a phone interview, the Minister of State in charge of Transport, Dr Alexis Nzahabwanimana, assured the conservationists that his ministry had taken all “necessary measures to limit the damage.”

“We have agreed with the contractor that they will pay attention to the environment but sometimes due to the hilly nature of the region, it is not easy. When it happens that soils cover up grass, it is not deliberate,” Dr Nzahabwanimana said.

“Upon completion, we will make sure all the affected areas are restored to their natural form. We won’t leave as if nothing happened; we will rehabilitate the affected zones,” he assured.

He noted that the Ministry of Infrastructure has agreed with Entreprise Mubiligi Paul (EMP), which was contracted to put up the road, to speed up the construction process as a way of limiting the damage.

According to the Minister, by the end of September, the activities will have been completed.

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