14 September 2017

Rwanda: City Cracks Down on Facilities in Wetlands

A warehouse belonging to a Turkish company, a corn miller and a church, all located in Kacyiru Sector of Gasabo District, were the first facilities to be closed down yesterday as authorities moved to enforce the law on wetlands.

The exercise, that will eventually be taken to other parts of the country, is conducted by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) together with the Ministries of Local Government, and Environment.

In the capital, the City of Kigali authorities are also involved.

Eng. Coletha Ruhamya, the director-general of REMA, told The New Times that the exercise is meant to "deliver a message to people that what they are told isn't a joke."

"Building in wetlands and having any other unlawful activity in such gazetted lands is prohibited and nobody is exempt from the crackdown we have launched. Everyone with an unlawful establishment in a wetland must vacate. We are closing them unless one furnishes us with plans of how and when they are shifting," Ruhamya said.

She said they started with Kigali but intend to extend the operation to the countryside where mostly those without permits are facing early closure.

"We have noticed that most of the facilities closed today are characterised by poor hygiene. This country is not a dumping site. Even those ones with permits will also have to move but we have to devise a way to move them because some require being compensated," she added.

Valens Mugisha, the manager for TEDMAR Rwanda, a Turkish firm whose warehouse was closed down, said they had been issued with a notice to vacate and they are planning to move to Kigali Special Economic Zone.

"We are about to start building a facility in Masoro because we have land there. We were told about this move, but we also wrote requesting for more time to relocate our activities. The move is in everyone's interest but we are still in talks to reach a consensus to facilitate the move without us incurring big losses," Mugisha said.

Other facilities that were closed yesterday include China Road & Bridge warehouse, Umurage w'Abera Silowamu church and Shekinah Super Ltd, a corn flour factory.

REMA had several times called upon citizens, including owners of the facilities, to protect and sustainably exploit wetlands because they are valuable for agriculture, water storage and purification, flood buffering, fertile soils and erosion control.

The City mayor, Pascal Nyamulinda, who was also on the ground, said there are activities meant to be in the wetlands and they will not allow anyone to dispose of garbage in undesignated areas.

"This is improper and ugly. These places (urban wetlands) are intended for amusement parks and other activities that preserve the environment. As the city master plan suggests, we intend to have environmentally friendly activities here," Nyamulinda said.

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