Home  >>  News >> Top news >> In Rwanda >> 

Police in Joint Partnership to Conserve Gishwati, Mukura Forests

Rwanda National Police (RNP)’s Environmental Protection Unit (EPU), along with several other stakeholders have joined efforts in a new drive to sensitive people living along Gishwati and Mukura forests to stop and fight illegal mining activities and other environmental degradation activities in and around the reserves.

On May 4, officers attached to EPU, Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), along with officials from the Landscape Approach to Forest Restoration and Conservation (LAFREC) under Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Mining Inspection Department of the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority and RDB’s Tourism and Conservation department met with over 400 residents of Manihira and Rusebeya sectors of Rutsiro District in an awareness exercise to conserve the forests.

The official emphasized on the dangers of illegal mining and encouraged the residents to form cooperatives and acquire licenses if they are to continue or conduct any mining activity.

The Director of EPU Police’s Environment Protection Unit, Supt. Modeste Mbabazi observed that illegal mining is one of the major causes of soil erosion.

The Director of EPU Police’s Environment Protection Unit, Supt. Modeste Mbabazi.

Experts say that illegal mining leads to loss of biodiversity and contamination of underground water by chemicals from the mines.

“Normally, those practicing illegal mining cut down trees and this has a major impact on the environment, which we should fight through information exchange. There are proper means set by the law of how and where to mine and penalties,” said Supt. Mbabazi.

Ill effects of environmental degradation, he noted, can be severe, irreversible and significant depending on the form of malpractice and warned that “irrespective of the magnitude of the impact, every crime if punishable by the law.”

Under article 438 of the penal code, any person, who undertakes illegal research or illegally carries out commercial activities in valuable minerals, shall be liable to imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to Rwf10million.

Earlier, 21 people were arrested after they were found mining illegally in a concession Remera in Remera Sector also in Rutsiro. They are currently held at Gihango Police station.

“Having a license doesn’t exempt you from being penalised if you violated mining standards and encroach on the forests or conduct any activities that endanger the ecosystem,” Supt. Mbabazi warned.

The Environmental Protection Unit operates under the Criminal Investigation Department and is mandated to protect the environment in all aspects, including air space, forestry and biodiversity, as well as the enforcement of different legal instruments that protect environment.

Rwanda’s forest intensification programme aims at achieving a 30 percent forest cover in the country as provided for in Vision 2020. So far, the country has achieved over 28 percent forest cover.

Patrick Nsabimana, the coordinator of LAFREC, who highlighted the progress made so far in the restoration of the two forests, urged residents to be part of the efforts to increase forest cover, restore indigenous woodland in deforested areas and enhance the biodiversity of the degraded forest reserves.

LAFREC is a US$9.5 million five-year project that is mandated to restore the highly degraded Gishwati-Mukura landscape, boosting land management of the two forests and improving local livelihoods, environment and climate resilience within the area.

Jean d’Amour Bagirijabo, an official from Rwanda Natural Resources Authority dwelt his address on the advantages of streamlining and regulating the mining industry, and echoed similar message of forming cooperatives as one of the easiest means to acquire a mining license.

By Robert Muriisa, RNP.

Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter

Leave your comment

Your Name

Your Email

Your comment

Close X