Rwanda: Environment Ministry Warns Schools Over Encroaching on Wetlands

A reforestation project in Muhanga District.

The Ministry of Environment has asked their counterparts in the education docket to follow up on classrooms construction activities that are encroaching wetlands and other environmental features in different districts.

In June, the Ministry of Education embarked on a plan that will see 22,505 classrooms completed in all 30 districts of the country by September this year.

The move is aimed at decongesting classrooms as the government continue to improve the learning environment for students in public schools.

However, the environment ministry has said that in some areas, the implementation of the project is not in conformity with the environmental protection guidelines.

In a letter signed by Minister for Environment, Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya, she highlighted seven districts that have so far been found to have encroached on wetlands while building classrooms.

These include Gisagara, Huye, Ruhango, Nyanza, Gasabo, Kicukiro and Rwamagana.

The confidential letter which The New Times has seen and which is addressed to the education ministry reads in part: "We write to inform you about our concern over classrooms construction activities that are damaging the environment across the country."

"As the inspection indicated, the activities didn't comply with measures to protect and sustainable use of natural resources in the inspected districts. Among the activities include clay extraction and brick burning in wetlands," the letter reads.

The minister explained that such activities have a negative impact on the environment and agriculture.

"We request that the construction of classrooms abide by laws and guidelines established to ensure sustainable development," she said.

Mujawamariya urged her education counterparts to follow up on the cases so that construction complies with environmental protection.

When The New Times contacted the minister of education via phone call and SMS to comment on the request, she didn't respond.

Regis Mudaheranwa, the Deputy District Executive Administrator of Gasabo district explained that two sites where illegal extraction of stones in the district to lay the foundation of classrooms had been suspended.

"We do a usual inspection to ensure activities are environmentally friendly," he said.

He said that because construction of schools was being done using a non-conventional approach, those implementing the project a likely to make mistakes but routine inspection must be done to correct any that might occur.

He said that so far, they have not observed any problem related to clay extracting and bricks burning.

Ange Sabutege, the mayor of Huye district which is among the districts cited to have breached environmental protection guidelines said he has not observed the issue in his district.

However, he said that officers in charge of the environment at the district are part of the task force in charge of inspecting classrooms construction to ensure they comply.

"We are ready to work with inspectors to examine the ongoing activities," he said.

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