Rwanda: Over 20 Per Cent of Kigali City Wetlands Need Rehabilitation

17 September 2021


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A view of the main gate of Nyandungu Urban Wetland Eco Tourism Park in Kigali on August 18. Béatrice Cyiza, the Director General in the Ministry of Environment in charge of Climate Change, said that in Kigali, there is at least one square kilometre of wetlands which offer potential to be developed as recreational spaces. / Photo: Sam Ngendahimana.

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Workers demolish buildings that were reported to be in wetland in the former industrial area in Gikondo, Kicukiro District in 2019. / Photo: Sam Ngendahimana.

Over 20 per cent of wetlands in Kigali city - equivalent to 15.76 square kilometres -should be rehabilitated so as to regain quality and pristine nature, a new Kigali urban wetland master plan has revealed.

The master plan developed by the Ministry of Environment indicates that Kigali has 7, 700 hectares or 77 square kilometres.

Failure to rehabilitate and conserve some of the wetlands that have been degraded, experts say, will lead to their failure to filter, store and supply flesh water and may lead to a water crisis.

They could also fail to control floods in the city, they add.

Béatrice Cyiza, the Director General of Environment and Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment told The New Times that wetlands in the City of Kigali have been classified into five zones.

The rehabilitation zone which is 20 per cent, she explained, is made of wetlands that previously existed but are now under different uses due to effects of human activities.

"These wetlands have been studied and their boundaries have been delineated as a rehabilitation zone. The plan is to re-establish a wetland ecosystem," she said.

She said that some wetlands in Kigali will be exploited on conditional use meaning that environmental impact assessment may be required before any activity is implemented while others will be fully conserved or protected.

The master plan shows that 50 per cent of 38.95 square kilometres must be fully conserved.

"Wetlands with existing natural values are to be fully conserved, these are wetlands which are still supporting significant areas of natural vegetation, where water is permanently present and that represent a valuable ecosystem," Cyiza said.

She added that there are wetlands, on about one square Kilometre, which offer potential to be developed as recreational spaces.

"There are certain wetlands which are currently under other uses that can be repurposed with a focus on public open spaces, passive and active recreational uses," she said.

She said that 29 per cent of the wetlands will be sustainably exploited.

"There are certain wetlands which are to be rehabilitated and their ecosystem improved, while retaining their existing economic, usage and recreational value but it is recommended to follow sustainable practices," she said.

The need for decontamination plan

Cyiza said that the wetland master plan is timely considering that wetlands in Rwanda were not effectively managed and protected which leads to their degradation.

"There was a lack of a wetlands management plan. Wetlands were damaged by sand and clay removal, Wastes were dumped in wetlands, there are prohibited structures in wetlands," she said, adding that the level of wetland pollution hadn't been determined.

She said this requires intensifying wetland protection, restoration and rehabilitation of degraded wetlands.

She said that, in 2019, the revised Environment and Climate Change Policy recommended the development of wetland master plan and implementation strategies, guidelines for the use of wetlands, identification of all polluted wetlands and development of a decontamination plan.

The decontamination plan, she said, includes the use of environmentally-sound technologies (phytoremediation) for pollution prevention, control and remediation.

She noted that rehabilitation of the degraded wetlands in the City of Kigali could take time as funds are being mobilized.

"No rehabilitation roadmap so far, however, with support from the World Bank, Nyabugogo and Gikondo wetlands are expected to be first rehabilitated in addition to Nyandugu which is at the completion phase," she said.

At least $75 million has been secured for the rehabilitation of the two wetlands in Kigali and flood control in secondary cities.

To rehabilitate other wetlands, she said, the source of funding will come from the government of Rwanda through Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA) and other mobilised resources from various Development Partners including World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB) and UN Agencies.

Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), this week, embarked on conducting an aerial survey in Kigali city for data to use in wetland rehabilitation and flood management.

Officials said there is also a proposal to develop a wetland master plan for the secondary cities in the second phase.

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