13 September 2018

Rwanda: Experts Push for Restoration of Degraded Landscape to Break Cycle of Disasters

Environmental experts are pushing for efforts to restore the county's degraded landscape occasioned by cutting trees for firewood as well as paving the way for construction projects.

Restoration of degraded landscape, experts say, will go a long way in addressing the challenges related to soil erosion as well as breaking the cycle of natural disasters such as landslides and flooding during the rainy season.

They were speaking on Wednesday during a cross-sectoral dialogue on 'Greening Rwanda' where they were rooted for improved conservation measures such as planting of trees and grass, and using terraces on steep slopes to contain rainwater.

Greening includes activities intended to achieve sustainable development without degrading the environment, rather restoring already degraded landscape.

"Most of the land has been degraded, people have been cutting trees. So, the soils have been left bare and when water comes, it just flows," the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Coletha Ruhamya, said.

She added that; "And then you will take into consideration that we are constructing and paving roads. When you pave the road, there is no way water will infiltrate in the soil. So, it will be flowing on the surface, and where it goes, it is more likely to cause erosion and floods".

Charles Karangwa, the Country Representative and Regional Forest Landscape Restoration Coordinator at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said that civil society, government and the private sector should work together to devise effective approaches for restoring degraded mountains, soils being carried away and dirty water.

"All these issues call for our urgent action," he said.

Persistent natural disasters across the country have damaged property and claimed many lives.

Since January this year, disaster disasters induced by heavy rains caused deaths of 222 people, destroyed 14,491 houses and 8,978 hectares of crops, 49 bridges, and claimed 754 livestock, according to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees.

This prompted the ministry to spend Rwf800 million in support of the affected people.

"We should take the restoration of our landscape as the foundation for mitigating risks instead of managing losses and damages," said the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugees, Jeanne d'Arc De Bonheur.

"This requires us, as Government, to do it in a sustainable manner by translating policies into actions, but we also need other partners, including the private sector, to help change risks into opportunities," she added.

Currently, 29.8 per cent of Rwanda's land is covered by forests, against the target of 30 per cent by 2020, according to information from REMA.

Rwanda has so far restored 600,000 hectares of land against its pledge to restore two million hectares under the Bonn Challenge - a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world's deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

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