The New Times (Kigali)

27 January 2013

Rwanda: REMA Expands Efforts to Protect Environment

This year, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) believes that among other measures in protecting the environment, joining hands with other institutions will further strengthen its efforts in achieving its mission.

This aims at not only engaging the public but many other players, including private and public institutions.

Rwanda Revenue Authority, Rwanda Bureau of Standards, Kigali City and the Ministry of Local Government are the key partners in REMA's latest campaign.

"What we want is for the public to realise and take action against any means through which the environment can be affected. This year, we are also devising means through which we can fight against importation, use and sale of plastic bags," said Clarisse Kamera, the communication and public relations officer at REMA.

In 2004, the government banned the importation, manufacturing and use of polythene bags after various studies indicated that they are hazardous to the environment. However, in various retail shops, including supermarkets, there are still small white polythene bags which shop attendants use secretly to pack items.

"In Rwanda, we are not manufacturing these bags and we are sure that they are still being sneaked into the country from our neighbours; that is why we are putting more efforts to ensure that strict measures are put in place at our entry points," she said.

At the entry points, customs officers under RRA are charged with the responsibility to enforce the ban. According to the law, anyone found illegally importing, using or selling polythene bags is liable to a sentence of between 6 to 12 months or a fine ranging between Rwf 100,00 to 500,000 or both.

Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, the director general of REMA, during the recent Town Hall meeting that brought together stakeholders in the new campaign, said that the public should take action in the fight based on the effects polythene bags cause to the social well being of the citizens.

With effect from yesterday's community work, locally known as Umuganda, local leaders, through the Ministry of Local Government, are required to educate and encourage the public to respect the ban.

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