RUTSIRO – An estimated Rwf 210 million worth tree nursery was last week uprooted as residents of Gishwati, Ruhango Sector Rutsiro District protested an impending eviction from Gishwati forest.
An announcement to evict about 152 families from Gishwati forest has sparked angry protests among residents in Ruhango Sector Rutsiro District.
Angry residents last week uprooted about 70,000 trees that were recently planted by the Forestry Management Support Project (PAFOR) in the area and chased project workers, authorities said.
According to the Governor of Western Province Celestin Kabahizi, the uprooted trees were worth Rwf 210 million.
This protest comes days after the Minister of Natural Resources, Stanislas Kamanzi, announced that over 152 residents from Ruhango Sector would be re-located to Bitenga which the residents say is a barren and small land compared to Gishwati which has fertile soils.
After expressing their dissatisfaction about the move to Rutsiro District authorities, who in return told them that the evacuation was inevitable due to the ministry’s effort to restore and conserve Gishwati forest, hundreds of residents castigated the move which resulted into the uprooting of the planted tress that covered 40 acres of land, according to Kabahizi.
Kabahizi condemned the action by residents and warned serious action will be taken to any one who continues to block the government’s efforts to restore the devastated Gishwati forest.
“Revolting and striking are not the solution to the problem, you all know the importance of protecting the environment and the disasters that can be caused by its destruction” he warned the residents.
It is because of the deforestation of Gishwati that floods last year destroyed hundreds of houses in the area, according to officials.
“Evacuating you from here and the restoration of Gishwati will benefit the entire country. That is why you need to fully understand and act positively instead of protesting and frustrating PAFOR’s activities,” he added. He promised various services will be provided in Bitenga, a new place that the 152 families are expected to be taken.
“Infrastructures such as markets, schools and health a centre will be constructed in Bitenga to ensure good living conditions for all of you,” Kabahiza assured the angry residents.
“You can imagine the loss you have caused, uprooting 70,000 trees with each estimated to cost frw3000.” He said culprits will be identified and forced to pay for the damage they caused.
The Minister of Natural Resources Stanislaus Kamanzi had earlier on told Ruhango residents that the eviction was meant to conserve Gishwati so as to restore ecosystem services in form of improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and flooding, fewer landslides and increased sequestration of carbon.