By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
While presenting the state of the Nation to Rwandans on Monday, 21st December 2020, President Paul Kagame has touched on people settling in wetlands and other high-risk zones and when the government decides for their relocation, they are reluctant to leave.
President Kagame explains the resettlement wrangles rise yet the country wants a better and more stable environment for them.
In recent days, it has been reported that residents have been displaced from wetlands and other high-risk zones especially in Kigali City, and have been resisting efforts while their lives were found to be in danger.
Not only in the city of Kigali where cases of high-risk housing were reported but also there are still people living in the same situation across the country so the government must do its utmost to make them leave the dangerous zones to settle comfortably.
Disasters are most common during the rainy season due to floods, landslides and other effects of climate change.
President Paul Kagame said “We have built infrastructures that help in floods prevention in different parts of the country that are prone to disasters and during the construction of those infrastructures people have been involved,”
Normally, the participatory approach leads to a greater understanding of the real cause of the relocation programs while in the absence of a participatory approach it is often difficult.
However, there are times when there is no time to wait when the lives of citizens are in danger.
President Kagame said “There are disasters that threaten people’s lives” adding that “There are people who live-in high-risk zones, there are people whose activities make floods, erosion and other disasters worse, but we have also to find solutions for that,” he said.
However, President Kagame added: ” when we find solution, it sometimes seems to be unfavorable to people’s lives,
But we remove people from the wetlands to live in comfortable areas where they can’t be killed by floods,” He noted
“By doing so, sometimes there are conflicts because people don’t understand the consequences but It’s really a problem that we want to solve, not us who caused the problem, but often the people themselves are the ones who have created the problems and we are the one to find solutions to their problems through other means.” Kagame explains
In Rwanda the most affected by disasters are people living in wetlands, on riverbanks or in steep slopes zones.
When people are relocated in the areas, they are redeveloped following the guidelines enshrined in the master plan of the zones.
For instance, since Rwanda Environment Ministry through Rwanda Environment Management Authority started to remove activities from Wetlands, some parts have been turned into recreational zones such as in parts of Nyarugenge District, Gasabo and Kicukiro Districts and this follows the guidelines in the city’s master plan.
Nadine Umutoni Gatsinzi, the Vice Mayor of City of Kigali in charge of Socio-economic Affairs recently told The New Times that at least 6,515 activities have so far been evicted from city wetlands.
She said that the biggest number of evicted encroachers was in Gasabo District, where 4,787 activities were removed from wetlands. The district in total had 5,072 activities in wetland.
The report shows that 557 activities of 562 in Kicukiro District were evicted while 1, 171 activities out of 1,588 in Nyarugenge District were also removed.
“Residential houses make 82.6 percent of all activities that were evicted from wetlands,” she said.
The initial survey by REMA had 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.
The survey indicated that approximately 55 per cent of the activities didn’t have any legal documents that authorize them to do so.
In rural areas there are examples like people who used to get hit by river outflows such as in Rubavu District where Sebeya river has been killing people whose settlements were exactly in marshlands or at the river bank.
However, with the current interventions through the Sebeya Landscape restoration project implemented by Rwanda Water Board with technical support from the International Union of Conservation Network (IUCN), the problems of river outflow and dangers caused to people’s lives have significantly reduced, thanks to river bank protection among other interventions.