SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT in RWANDA: AN ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS
By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20140903
I will explain the environmental situation in Rwanda by focusing on the following four areas: Water (A), Environment, Climate Change and Biodiversity (B), Land management (C) and Forests management (D). This discussion will be accompanied by a video produced by John D. Liu / Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP) with the cooperation of the Government of the Republic of Rwanda. Please see minutes 3:03 – 8:03.
In the National Report for Rwanda, conducted by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20), Dr. Alfred R. Bizoza reported for the government of Rwanda (2012). According to Bizoza, Rwanda had a law governing water approved in 2009 and completed a water resource management strategy (2011-2016) (Bizoza 2012). This strategy aimed to conserve and manage water resources in an “integrated and equitable manner” while respecting “transboundary interest and international environment obligations” (Bizoza 2014, 13). Rwanda established a department of water resource management in 2011, however, staffing and institutional capacity remains underdeveloped because of a lack of donor commmitments. The Rwanda Natural Resources Authority and Environment and Natural Resources Sector Working Group are capable of making improvements in these areas, but will need to work with other sectors to establish a more univeral assessment of use/suppply to ensure efficiency and conservation (Bizoza 2014).
At the time of this report, Rwanda had surpassed its goal to increase the proportion of protected areas for biodiversity preservation by.03% (Bizoza 2014). Bizoza notes, “Critical ecosystems have been mapped, assessed, rehabilitated, mostly wetlands and riverbanks and lakeshores” and there has been commenadable results in “legal, regulatory, policy, and institutional framework” (2012, 14). There has been a powerful public awareness campaign cutting across the nation raising sensitivity to environmental management and protection, including sustainable development education, and the push to establish a environment and climate change fund (Bizoza 2014). Much progress has been made in regard to environmental pollution and ozone depletion. Further, managing and conserving protected areas has contributed to national development through the tourism industry. In order for these gains to be sustainable there will need to be more funding in the environment and climate change sub sectors, increased appreciation of environment issues among business and government, and better coordination across all sectors (Bizoza 2014).
The National Land Policy, developed in 2004, aimed to reform the land tenure system, use, and management and produced a land sector strategic plan (2010) with four strategic objectives (Bizoza 2014). These objectives culminated to adress the governance theme through “land legislation, reduction of land conflicts, public participation and transparency in land tenure regulation, provision of collateral, collection of land fees for local governments and land use planning for better development” (Bizoza 2014, 15). Achievements have been made, however, the newness of the land institutional framework has disabled many actors from understanding their roles which has led to conflicting decisions.
One of the most fundamental sources of sustainable development in Rwanda are forests (Bizoza 2014). According to the national report of Rwanda, the war and genocide in 1994 destroyed approximately 15,000 ha of forest plantations and 35,000 more were negatively affected (Bizoza 2014). The government later encouraged people to share resources with returnees including state lands which increased deforestation. However, there have been national policies and projects along with donor initiatives focused on boosting the forestry sector in Rwanda. Nevertheless, there are numerous constraints such as “indiscriminate cutting of forests” and “uneven distribution of forest resources” that continue to hamper this vital commodity for sustainable development (Bizoza 2014, 17).
Bizoza, Alfred. National Report for Rwanda. United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, 2012, 1-32. (accessed September 3, 2014).