The standing committee on budget and national patrimony of the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday backed efforts by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Minirena) on the management of the environment and climate change but demanded for more action.
Members of the committee demanded for exhaustion of all avenues so as to ensure a safer and cleaner environment for Rwandans, as top Minirena officials presented their 2012/13 budget allocations to the committee.
The ministry dedicated Rwf 5.7 billion of its Rwf 15.2 billion budget to environment and climate management.The administration and institutional development will receive Rwf 2.79 billion, while sustainable land management gets Rwf 2.47 billion.
Forest management and tree planting gets Rwf 2 billion, integrated water resources management, Rwf 1.3 billion, while the promotion and value addition to mines and quarries is allocated Rwf 876.8 million.
Minister Stanislas Kamanzi told lawmakers that in the new fiscal year, key environmental and climate change management priorities will include sustenance of efforts towards the management of ecosystems for income generation through rehabilitation of the critically degraded ecosystems including river banks and lakeshores as well as development of specific restoration or conservation plans.
MP Connie Bwiza noted that development cannot be achieved if the environment is ignored and urged for clarity on policies as well as sustainability and ownership of pertinent initiatives, including tree planting.
“When you look to the past years, every leader in charge set timelines for fighting soil erosion, but what is the problem? Is it resources?” she posed. MP Faith Mukakalisa thanked Kamanzi and his team “for the very many achievements registered” especially in fighting desertification in the Eastern Province.
She, however, noted particular concerns on the afforestation plans and the fate of Rondereza cooking stoves, an initiative, which, according to her, had faded off.MP Jean Damascene Murara noted that mining companies must ensure that old mines are covered appropriately so as to protect the environment.
In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the sector was allocated a budget of Rwf12.69 billion. This included 70.5 percent of internal financing and 29.5 percent of external financing.The 2011-2012 budget execution rate was 84.6 per cent based on internal financing.
Kamanzi said the ministry wants to reduce the country’s vulnerability to climate change by developing an early warning system for vulnerable regions, undertaking adaptation in selected vulnerable regions to climate change and supporting effective mainstreaming of climate change issues in sector policies, strategies and plans.
The minister along with other Minirena officials criticised local administrative officials who fail to own environmental issues as a crosscutting issue. Some mayors have lobbied lawmakers to have local authorities manage forests as an income generating venture. Kamanzi, however, pointed out that they could have “ill motives”.
“We wonder about the motives district leaders have. From experience, we have observed that in many areas, forests were destroyed in the name of development activities that mayors pursued especially when building schools and village settlement.“They could just wipe out a forest without even considering set laws and guidelines. You wonder whether, to them, forests mean anything. It is a very serious problem,” Kamanzi said, noting that plans to offer local leaders a bigger role in forests management should not prevent Minirena from achieving its management and conservation targets.
MPs inquired about various country initiatives, including tree planting plans, soil erosion control, land registration and use, mining practices and others.Abbas Mukama, the vice-chairperson of the committee, inquired about efforts to manage hazardous electronic waste from old computers, refrigerators, cell-phones and other gadgets.
In response, the Director of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), Dr. Rose Mukankomeje, noted that they have assessed the management of electronic elsewhere and proper arrangements are being worked out.“We realised that we have a lot of them [e-waste].
Even the ICT ministry had done its own assessment. You know people usually import old computers but in collaboration with the RBS, we have declined this. The plan is to gather those present, remove usable parts, and then find ways of disposing them off.”
Electronic waste or e-waste comprises of discarded electrical or electronic devices which contain hazardous but also valuable and scarce materials. According to Wikipedia, worldwide, an estimated 50 million tonnes of e-waste are produced each year.
Minirena is also focusing on controlling pollution through the establishment and enforcement of regulations and standards to control and manage airborne, solid and liquid waste and other pollutants.
The ministry plans to develop a national strategy and action plan to monitor and manage toxic and hazardous pollutants and environmental assessment tools and promote best practices and clean technologies.Another strategy is to mainstream the environment into policies, strategies and programmes and environmental education and raising of public awareness to enhance ownership among all stakeholders, especially women and children.
Other 2012/13 priorities especially lands and mapping include: processing seven million leasehold titles; training district officials in GIS and land use planning and preparation of district land use plans and connecting districts to the country’s land administration information system.