By Justin Kayiranga
As one of the countries that has shown willingness and zeal to protect the environment, Rwanda has established a number of policies in the field of biodiversity conservation and protection of the environment as a whole.
Among these policies include the Forests Landscape Restoration initiatives and the banning of the use and importation of single use plastic products.
In addition to this, the Government of Rwanda has also enacted a law on environmental protection in order to prevent the degradation of biodiversity.
During a 2 days’ workshop organized by the Rwanda Environmental Journalists (REJ) in partnership with other stakeholders namely Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Rwanda National Police and INTERNEWS, various journalists who attended the workshop were reminded that their role is needed in mobilizing the public to take care of and protect the environment.
Speaking at the Workshop, Mr. Rushingabigwi Jean Bosco the Media Sector Coordinator at RGB said: “You must first of all take care of the community and explain to them that in order to live a healthy life, they are required to live in a safe place able to provide a fresh air. Teach them that in order to achieve this, they have to take care of the environment.”
Campaigns through media and other platforms seem to have brought a change in the perception of the community to the point where they too feel it is their responsibility to protect the environment.
Despite the steps being taken in Rwanda, there are still challenges that some people are deliberately disregarding the law on the protection of the environment for their own benefit.
Among these challenges, mentions come around the cases where people are still using illegal plastic products, while others are also engaging in illegal activities in protected areas such as in wetlands and on the shores of lakes and rivers as explained by CIP Eddie Ngonga from the Rwanda National police unit in charge of protecting the environment, during his presentation in the workshop.
Below is a list of some penalties to offences against environmental law.
OFFENCES AND PENALTIES:
- Trading, transportation and management of toxic waste
Imprisonment for a term of not less than seven (7) years and not more than ten (10) years and a fine not less than (FRW 100,000,000) and not more than FRW 200,000,000.
- Importing, immersing, burying, burning of waste or using any other means that cause their decomposition.
imprisonment for a term of not less than 3 years and not more than 5 years and a fine of not less than FRW 5 million and not more than FRW 10 million.
- Hunting, selling, injuring or killing a protected animal
imprisonment for a term of not less than 5 years and not more than 7 years and a fine not less than FRW 5,000,000 and not more than FRW 7,000,000.
- Uprooting or cutting a protected plant species
imprisonment for a term of not less than 3 years and not more than 5 years and a fine of not less than FRW 1,000,000 and not more than FRW 3,000,000.
- Unauthorized introduction of plant or animal species into wetlands
imprisonment for a term of not less than 3 years and not more than 5 years and a fine not less than FRW 1,000,000 and not more than FRW 3,000,000.
On behalf of all journalists-members of REJ, Mr. Sadiki D. Rubangura, the executive Director of the forum, said:
“Such workshop is part of the main job of REJ, because one of its aims is to help journalists gain sufficient knowledge and skills to help them make professional environment related stories”
He also added that: REJ will continue to do its utmost to ensure that journalists receive adequate training, and also promise that wherever possible they will support any journalist who will need to cover an environmental story but face a financial problem.
At the end of the workshop, these journalists got an opportunity to visit the Volcanoes national park in Musanze district, where they were shown the progress and activities done for wildlife conservation in the park, especially the gorillas that seemed to be in decline due to poaching but there is now hope that they will be preserved.183