Africa-Press – Rwanda. More than 7,000 activities encroaching on wetlands in Kigali were removed to pave way for rehabilitation and set up of suitable environment friendly recreational business, city officials have said.
A survey conducted in 2019 by the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) found that 78.9 percent of 7,222 illegal activities in wetlands were residential homes, 9.44 per cent were commercial houses, and 2.85 per cent were livestock activities while 3.18 per cent were mixed commercial and residential activities.
According to the City of Kigali’s Vice Mayor in charge of urbanisation and infrastructure, Merard Mpabwanamaguru, after evicting the encroaching activities from the wetlands a study is being carried out to identify those which can be given to investors for recreational businesses.
“The wetland master plan in Kigali city has classified wetlands in Kigali city. Some have to be rehabilitated and conserved, others have to be used for agriculture while others will serve for eco-tourism and recreational businesses to generate revenues. We are conducting studies for over 470 hectares to be used for recreational business,” he said.
He said that the studies will be finished by the end of 2022 so that in 2023 the project will be implemented and they woo investors for recreational and ecotourism businesses.
According to the survey, dubbed “Wetlands Biodiversity and Ecological Integrity Assessment,” conducted by Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network), more than 40 per cent of wetlands lost their quality due to encroachment and therefore eviction was needed.
The surface area of wetlands in Kigali decreased from 100 square kilometers to 77 square kilometers.
The wetlands recommended for rehabilitation in Kigali city are 15 square kilometres. Those recommended for sustainable use make 29 per cent, those for conservation make 38 per cent and the rest are recommended for recreation, according to the Ministry of Environment.
“The studies are gradually being conducted to implement the wetland master plan,” Mpabwanamaguru said.
The implementation of Kigali City wetland master plan would generate more than $155 million annually according to a 2021 study.
The study dubbed “Economics of Kigali City Wetland Ecosystem Services” which was carried out by environmentalists from Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) in partnership with IUCN and REMA shows that there are about 37 interconnected wetlands in Kigali, with a total area of about 9, 160 hectares, or about 12.5 per cent of the city’s land mass. The current economic value of the wetlands ecosystem services on 9,160 hectares is $74.2 million, the study shows.
However, the cumulative economic benefits of the ecosystem services in Kigali’s wetland complex over the next 30 years are valued at slightly above $2 billion with the effective implementation of the wetland master plan.
Under the Kigali City Wetland Master Plan, 3,888 hectares are reserved for conservation.
Some other 3,851 hectares of wetlands are for sustainable use, and the remaining 1,421 hectares of wetlands are for tourism and recreation.
Tourism and recreation would result in annual revenue of more than $800,000.
One of the eco-tourism projects completed is the Nyandungu Eco-Park that is being managed by QA Venue Solutions. The 121 hectare park (70 hectares of wetland and 50 hectares of forest) features a medicinal garden, five catchment ponds, three recreation ponds, an information centre, a restaurant as well as 10 kilometers of walkways and bike lanes.
“We look forward to working with our partners to replicate the success of restoring Nyandungu in other urban wetlands in Kigali and across the country,” Juliet Kabera, Director General of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, said during the official opening of the park.
Initial projections indicate that the park should generate more than Rwf1bn profit, annually, in the first 12 years of operation.
According to the 2021 study, there are about four important ecosystem services that support local city dwellers with income and livelihoods. They include crop farming, papyrus and papyrus products, grass harvesting and brick making.
As noted, products from papyrus and other related grass will result in an annual incremental benefit worth $228,000 above the current levels. Improvement in agricultural outcomes for Kigali will generate an annualized benefit of more than $S10 million with the implementation of the city wetland master plan and potentially keep 14,000 households in employment.
Other ecosystem services of importance include; flood control, sediment control, water purification, habitat for biodiversity, tourism and recreation, and carbon storage and sequestration.
The water purification function for use by downstream communities would offer an annual incremental economic benefit valued at $8.9 million over and above the current Kigali wetlands complex management and utilization, according to the study. As noted, sediment control would result in an improvement and offer an annual incremental net benefit of $8 million over and above the current use of the Kigali wetlands complex.
Flood control for disaster mitigation would result in an annual incremental value of $17 million over the current Kigali wetlands complex management and use.
Carbon storage and sequestration for climate change mitigation would have an annual incremental benefit over the current management worth $113 million, the study indicates.
Habitat for biodiversity conservation value will have an incremental benefit over the current practice worth $16.9 million, annually.
The study recommended for, among others, investments in regular data collection to help in keeping track of the flow of the ecosystem services provision; and consideration of mitigation measures for the losses and damages (specially to crop farmers who are the likely losers) in case the wetland master plan is implemented.