This year, the Day is observed under the theme “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future”. The theme aims to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands for the future of sustainable urban development and green growth.
On the occasion, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) calls on all Rwandan citizens to manage well the country’s urban wetlands and minimise pressure on them.
“Urban wetlands in Rwanda face a lot of pressure especially with pollution resulting from dumping soil, solid and wastewater; and illegal infrastructures, illegal mining and illegal cutting of grass among others. As urbanization increases along with large amounts of natural resources for survival, water consumption and waste management, among others, will exponentially increase and cause irreversible damage to the environment especially urban wetlands,”said Eng. Coletha Ruhamya, Director General of REMA.
“Every body should adopt actions that help to conserve and restore urban wetlands to make our cities sustainable in the future. Well-managed urban wetlands ensure communities are resilient to climate change and disasters risk,” Ruhamya added
Urban wetlands are prized land to make cities liveable by providing multiple benefits such as flood control, water supply, waste treatment, green space and livelihoods and human wellbeing.
During rainstorms, urban wetlands absorb excess rainfall, which reduces flooding in cities and prevents disasters and their subsequent costs. The natural vegetation found in urban wetlands, acts as a filter for domestic and industrial waste, contributing to improving water quality as source of drinking water. Urban wetlands are also green spaces for recreation and thus promoting human wellbeing.
The National Roadmap for Green Secondary City Development done in 2015 by the Government of Rwanda in partnership with the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) showed that Rwanda’s current average growth rate of the urban population is 4.5%, which is well above the world average of 1.8%.
With such growing population, size supplemented by the development of six secondary cites namely Huye, Muhanga, Nyagatare, Rubavu, Musanze and Rusizi developed as poles of growth and centres of non-agricultural economic activities, urban population in Rwanda are expected to increase to 35% by 2024 in search of jobs and a vibrant social life.
Therefore, as urbanization increases along with large amounts of natural resources for survival, water consumption and waste management will exponentially increase and cause irreversible damage to the environment especially urban wetlands.
In the City of Kigali, 50% of wetlands have lost their ecological character. A survey conducted in July 2017 indicated that over 2078 establishments around the city encroached wetlands. Built-up areas consisting of commercial buildings, public facilities and residences make up 2.7 per cent of wetlands.
To ensure wise use of Rwanda’s wetlands and compliance with existing laws and regulations, from July 2017, the Government of Rwanda started an intensified operation to relocate facilities illegally settled in wetlands across the country.
Currently, 50% of the world population live in urban areas and they are expected to increase to 66% by 2050. Unfortunately, while cities are growing with increased demand for land, wetlands are declining. They are degraded, filled in and built upon. Globally, more than 64% of the world’s wetlands have been decimated since 1900.