Kigali’s five wetlands set for over Rwf100 billion upgrade

By Esther Muhozi
On 29 January 2024 at 10:54

Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has announced a revitalization plan for the five wetlands in the City of Kigali, commencing in February 2024.

This initiative, which resembles the Nyandungu Park in Gasabo District, is projected to incur a cost of $80 million (over Rwf101.6 billion). The official launch of the wetland restoration project took place on January 27, 2024, during the community work (Umuganda) event, held at Gikondo wetland in Kicukiro District.

The targeted wetlands cover a total area of 408 hectares and include Gikondo, Rwampara, Rugenge-Rwintare, Kibumba, and Nyabugogo swamps. Each wetland will undergo specialized restoration based on its location.

According to Kabera Juliet, the CEO of REMA, the renovation project is expected to cost $80 million, with Rwanda collaborating with various partners, including the World Bank, to secure $32 million (equivalent to slightly over Rwf40 billion) for the initial phase of this initiative.

She stated that the wetlands will undergo a modernized renovation, eliminating unwanted grass, reclaiming stolen springs, and incorporating sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists. The plan includes seating areas, the restoration of damaged grass, and the installation of additional water filters. The objective is to enhance the appearance of Nyandungu.

Commencing in the first week of February, the implementation of these improvements is expected to conclude within 18 months. The wetlands will be treated using contemporary water-receiving and filtering methods to facilitate the flow of clean streams.

The rehabilitation aims to eliminate unpleasant odors, eradicate litter such as used bottles, and transform the area into a tourist attraction teeming with biodiversity that was previously diminishing.

The primary focus is on widening the rivers within the wetlands and directing them through modern channels. Reservoirs will be created to regulate water flow speed, preventing potential floods that could jeopardize infrastructure.

Various traditional trees, including those from Gishwati, Mukura, and other rare species found in Kigali, will be added to enhance the educational experience for visitors, allowing them to learn about the diverse trees present in natural forests. While the primary goal is environmental conservation, the wetlands will incorporate various amenities to cater to recreational tourists.

Infrastructure developments in these wetlands will encompass facilities such as libraries with internet access, recreational spaces featuring football fields, bicycle paths, and pedestrian walkways for sports and leisure activities. Additionally, there will be food stalls, exhibitions, children’s games, and more. Dedicated parking areas equipped with solar energy solutions will be available for vehicles. The wetlands will boast four-meter-wide bicycle lanes, benches every 500 meters, sky bridges over artificial ponds, and street lights every 20 meters.

The amenities further include bicycle sheds, large tables for educational purposes, information booths, drinking water stations, benches for sightseeing, and gyms for fitness enthusiasts. Residents will not only find employment opportunities during the wetland cleaning process and subsequent developments but also have a vibrant recreational space funded by visitor contributions.

In Nyabugogo wetland, a sizable lake, filled with filtered water, will be installed to provide water-based recreational activities, offering an alternative to traveling to Rubavu. Additionally, a boat will be available for those who prefer water travel.

The Minister of Environment Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya likened wetlands to kidneys, emphasizing their vital role in filtering water and supporting ecosystem health. The minister sees the wetland restoration project as a collective opportunity for employment, services, and a safe recreational environment.

The restoration efforts are expected to directly and indirectly benefit over 220,500 people facing challenges such as disasters, lack of clean water, and other issues resulting from wetland degradation. The master plan for Kigali City until 2050 reveals a 4% reduction in wetland area from 2013 to 2022 due to human activities, currently accounting for 10.6% of the city’s total area.

Kigali City currently has 37 wetlands covering 9,160 hectares, estimated to be valued at over $74 million. The government’s initiatives since 2017, involving the relocation of families and removal of destructive activities, aim to address wetland degradation. A study by the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) projects that taking care of Kigali’s wetlands could contribute more than $1.9 billion to Rwanda’s economy by 2025.