30 November 2012

Rwanda: Public Warned Against Concealing Asbestos Roofing

The National Coordinator of Asbestos Removal Project, Fredrick Bizimana, has warned the public against camouflaging asbestos sheets that were declared a health hazard.

Habimana made the warning after his team unearthed a structure roofed with asbestos at the premises of Gahini hospital. It had been painted in blue to mask the unwanted roofing.

He warned that such activities could result in grave consequences for those responsible and the community in general.

"It is very unfortunate that Gahini hospital painted asbestos sheets to conceal them. The process is preceded by scratching off the top layer of asbestos," he noted.

"In the process, people come in direct contact with cancer causing materials. Such people evading the law may be punished," he warned.

He further requested the management of the hospital to dutifully remove the asbestos sheets.

Meanwhile, the official said that church buildings were second only to the government's, in terms of having more structures with asbestos roofing.

"We need a hand from the churches to remove asbestos sheets...16 per cent of the asbestos we have are on structures owned by churches, while the government buildings have 44 per cent. So, churches have a significant role in the process to eradicate it," he added.

Inspector of the asbestos removal project in Eastern Province, Sajji Ryakunze, however said that most stakeholders were cooperative, adding that some parishes were expected to start the exercise soon.

She emphasised that private institutions must show more concern if the deadline is to be met.

"The 1968 Kibungo Parish for example will start removing asbestos sometime next week. Other churches should follow suit. We are doing high level mobilisation," Ryakunze observed.

Residents however expressed pessimism terming the process as very slow, adding that asbestos may be affecting their lives.

The removal of the asbestos sheets that began June, 2012 is expected to end by June 2013.

Eastern Province has 17.5 per cent of the total asbestos roofing in the country, ranking third behind Kigali city, which leads at 30.5 per cent.

Paul Ngabirame, a resident of Ngoma said that the process may further be derailed by individuals that bought Government buildings that have asbestos roofing.

"The deadline and the speed at which the removal is made don't match. Most hospitals are roofed with asbestos...It is an irony to go for treatment in an environment that is risky. You go for malaria treatment, you risk getting cancer. The government should be fast enough in the removal of asbestos materials especially on such public structures," he said.

Rwanda targets to remove one million square metres of asbestos roofing.

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