Govt to eradicate asbestos roofing by 2016

More than one million square metres of asbestos roofing have to be cleared and disposed of by 2016, an exercise that will cost both government and the private sector an estimated Rwf23b.
Technicians prepare asbestos roofs for disposal during a past exercise.   The New Times/ File.
Technicians prepare asbestos roofs for disposal during a past exercise. The New Times/ File.

More than one million square metres of asbestos roofing have to be cleared and disposed of by 2016, an exercise that will cost both government and the private sector an estimated Rwf23b.

Eradicating the material not only requires logistical support, but also specialised experts to ensure that the toxic substance is handled in a way that will not harm human life.

Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA), which is spearheading the exercise, says  several people from construction enterprises, civil society, Police and inmates have been trained to do the work.

“Those are the only people who have the mandate to remove, transport and bury asbestos in designated areas,” said Eric Kananga, the in charge of asbestos eradication in RHA.

Kananga was addressing technicians at the 5th training on asbestos eradication in Kigali at the weekend. About 2,000 personnel have been trained. The government has so far disposed of 13 per cent of asbestos since 2011.

Budget constraints

Efforts to eradicate asbestos started in October 2009, when Cabinet gave a six-month period within which people or institutions with asbestos on their roofs should have got rid of them.

However, this deadline was not met. RHA is decrying  budgetary constraints.

“The budget is still a challenge, given that individuals say they do not have enough money to replace the asbestos,” Kananga said.

As far as public structures, which include public hospitals, schools and government buildings are concerned, institutions and districts are looking at the government treasury.

“Technicians are now available; all we are waiting for is money to pay them. Since most of the houses are public buildings, we are expecting State budget to cater for the exerciser,” said Solange Mukasonga, the mayor of Nyarugenge District.

She said they are sensitising the private sector on the dangers of asbestos so that they appreciate the urgency of the exercise.

Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege, the spokesperson for the Catholic Church, which has a biggest number of asbestos roofs after the public sector, told The New Times that government has a big role to play in the activity because those who used asbestos did it legitimately.

“We asked for incentives for the exercise. We recognise it is in good faith that we have to get rid of asbestos but we asked government for help,” he said.

Only public institutions are certain to receive government support.

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