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Rwanda vows proper use of wetlands to curb climate disasters

Rwanda has intensified efforts to ensure proper utilization of wetlands in a bid to help the country fight disastrous effects of climate change.

The country asserts that the role of wetlands in disaster risk reduction is gaining prominence as climate change continues to heighten the risks of many natural catastrophes.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday during the celebrations to mark the annual World Wetlands Day, Coletha Ruhamya, director general, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) said that wetlands can reduce the impacts of natural hazards if protected and properly utilized.

"Wetlands in Rwanda face a lot of pressure specially from poor agriculture, peat extraction, illegal mining, pollution, dumping of wastes, construction activities and illegal infrastructure.

It is high time that Rwandans promote sustainable practices which support healthy wetlands for disaster risk reduction," she noted. "Safeguarding our wetlands would help us reduce the risks arising from disasters, particularly floods which continue to affect our lives in various ways thus putting lives at risk and reducing our food security."

Ruhamya called on Rwandan citizens to take action that help conserve and promote sustainable use of wetlands.

The day that falls on February 2 every year aims to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. World Wetlands Day has been celebrated internationally since 1997.

Each year, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general.

The day that was marked under the theme: "Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction". The theme calls on governments and communities to consider the function of wetlands in reducing the impact of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones.

REMA says that wetlands act as a natural sponge, absorbing and storing excess rainfall and controlling flooding. During the dry season, they release the water stored, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 90 percent of all natural hazards are water-related. The frequency of natural hazards has more than doubled and the majority are climate and weather related.

Rwanda has experienced a growing number of disasters in recent decades, causing loss of lives, displacement of people and damaging of infrastructure, crops and environmental degradation.

The 2015 national risk atlas of Rwanda assessment report by the ministry in charge of disaster management indicated that a combined disaster (floods, landslides and droughts) could cost Rwanda a massive 132 million U.S. dollars loss, bigger than the budget allocated to the country’s agriculture sector.

Rwanda has 867 marshlands covering a total surface of 278,536 hectares equivalent to 10.6 percent of the country surface area.

The small central African country signed the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Ramsar Convention in December, 2003.


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