Ramsar Independent Advisory Committee on Wetland City Accreditation selected the City of Kigali, among the 25 accredited cities for the second edition of the Wetland City Accreditation.
The Wetland City Accreditation scheme encourages cities in close proximity to and dependent on wetlands – especially designated Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance – to promote the conservation and wise use of urban and peri-urban wetlands, as well as sustainable socio-economic benefits for local people.
This initiative also represents a direct link between Sustainable Development Goal 11 – “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” – and SDG6 – “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.
“As cities grow and demand land increases, the tendency is to encroach on wetlands, which are often viewed as wasteland,” said Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention. “But urban wetlands are prize land, not wasteland and therefore they should be integrated into the development and management plans of cities.”
To date, out of 43 wetlands Accredited Cities in the World, only 4 are in Africa namely; Ghar el Melh (Tunisia), Mitsinjo (Madagascar), Kigali (Rwanda); Ifrane (Morocco), and Cape Town (South Africa).
Kigali Wetlands have been threatened by human activities mainly conversion to agriculture, human settlements, and commercial and industrial activities decreasing the flood and pollution abatement capacity of wetlands.
Strategic ecological rehabilitation solutions that will help to reverse these impacts were put in place, and so far, the following have been achieved:
• All illegal business activities inside wetlands were evacuated;
• The Kigali wetland masterplan was approved to support Kigali in efficiently managing and utilizing its wetland system sustainably;
• Nyandungu wetland has been restored into a healthy urban wetland eco-tourism park that covers 121.7 hectares in size, including 70 hectares of wetlands and 50 hectares of forests, home to more than 62 local plant species and is home to more than 100 bird species and 17,000 trees made up of 55 indigenous species.
It has a network of paths, bicycle tracks, a service road, bird habitats, a medicinal plant garden, and picnic areas to provide the facilities required by tourists and visitors. Included in the project is a concession for a restaurant in a central location on the site.
Rehabilitation of Nyandungu Wetland has restored the following services:
1. Environmental Services: They have demonstrated how Nature Based Solutions can be used to attenuate floodwater, control flooding and water pollution (Wetland restoration through the spreading of channels and creation of attenuation ponds and use of gabions to allow slow and natural water movement to remove pollutants and manage floods). - They have restored flora (A forest ring around the site made up of native and indigenous plant species) and fauna (The creation of a bird habitat, and attraction of beneficial species of butterflies). In fact, we have restored ecosystems and biodiversity
2. Social services: They created spaces for the community to meet, mingle and socialize within a safe and secure environment (Eco-tourism opportunities including Bird watching).
3. Recreational services: They served the recreational need of the community and the City of Kigali as a whole through walking and jogging facilities, biking, and picnicking.
4. Economical services: - Land values have increased in the surrounding areas. - Employment created after completion during its operation and management (A restaurant, Ablution facilities, Iconic Entrance, and Maintenance House). - Revenue from various activities and services provided in the park as well as local and international tourism.
5. Educational and Research services: - The project has contributed to the implementation of Rwanda’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy. - Education through demonstration of how wetlands work and their benefits (Information Center). - Research sites on wetland ecosystems and species by students, institutions, and universities
As part of our Vision 2050 of developing a Green City, we are completing the study to rehabilitate 5 wetlands namely Rwampara, Gikondo, Rugenge-Rwintare, Kibumba, and Nyabugogo lower urban wetlands as key priorities for wetland rehabilitation based on their critical contribution to effective management of wetlands in Kigali, that cover 491 ha in total. The main objectives of wetland rehabilitation in the City of Kigali are as follows:
a. Flood mitigation acknowledging climate changes.
b. Improvement of wetlands’ biodiversity.
c. Water quality improvement.
d. Enhancement of the city’s landscape and development of recreational activities
Sustainable utilization of rehabilitated urban wetlands will be achieved by acknowledging the multiple demands on the urban space that include public amenities and socio-economic potential.
This may include the establishment of recreation parks with low-impact infrastructure for leisure and environmental education purposes that would promote public awareness of biodiversity, water provision and quality, and other functions.
It may also include community agricultural activities, eco-tourism parks, or other economic initiatives where these may enhance synergy with local communities and may even support wider water security and climate adaptation objectives of the city.
The City of Kigali aims to promote the sustainable management of wetlands by re-establishing wetland habitats, introducing heterogeneous indigenous habitats in the buffer zone, and supporting, flood attenuation in the city as well as livelihood diversification to enhance incomes for local communities through enhancement of recreational and tourism opportunities.