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Five ways Covid-19 impacted Rwanda’s environment | The New Times

Five ways Covid-19 impacted Rwanda’s environment | The New Times

According to the State of Environment and Outlook Report 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic had both a negative and a positive impact on the environment.

The Sixth Report presents a comprehensive assessment of Rwanda’s environment and examines the potential impacts of Covid-19 on the environment.

Below are five areas affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Impact on forests and biodiversity

According to the report, the Covid-19 pandemic allowed wildlife to thrive in certain habitats and extended their territories. However, it also impeded scientific research and monitored wildlife and ecosystem functions.

“There is anecdotal evidence that the absence of tourists triggered a rise in forests and biodiversity population numbers or the arrival of new species in areas previously  frequented by hikers or other visitors,” reads part of the report.

Tourism: Impact

The report showed that protected areas seemed to be safe from decreased human activity.

The report states, however, that other areas have not been subject to scientific monitoring and surveillance of the touristic environment. This could increase the risk of illegal activity such as deforestation, grazing, and so on.

In 2020, Rwanda’s tourism sector was the most severely affected.

The pandemic restrictions caused a drop in tourism revenue of 76 per cent from $498million in 2019 to $121million in 2020.

The government currently transfers 10 percent of tourism revenue to communities near parks. This means that conservation efforts are also affected by a decrease in tourism revenue.

Meanwhile the government’s support for the sector through the Economic Recovery Fund (ERF) will go a long way in aiding its recovery as about 50 percent of the Rwf100 billion recovery fund has been dedicated to the tourism and hospitality sector.

Impact on waste management

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Rwanda’s waste management faced various challenges and the current pandemic just exacerbates the situation according to the report.

“The use and production of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks and bottles of disinfectant is expected to have increased. In addition, containment measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus have resulted in interruptions in waste management work and delayed the establishment of waste collection centers across the country such as e-waste,” the report highlights.

One response is the pilot projects, which initiated safe disposal of PPEs.

Local waste collection companies collect and dispose used gloves and masks at Kabuye’s central collection center. This is a Kigali suburb. They are then kept for incineration, REMA stated.

Impact on water quality and sanitation

The report indicates that during Covid-19, the water and sanitation sector were among the critical sectors, partly because the sector was important in the fight against the spread of the pandemic, and partly due to the economic consequences of the pandemic which hampered the affordability of water and sanitation services to the public.

“The rural residents were more affected than the urban residents. The rural and small-town water suppliers suffered financial and operational challenges during the pandemic, including supply chain difficulties,” it says.

Impact on air quality

On the one hand, the report explains that containment measures to stem the spread of Covid-19 resulted in improvements in air quality, especially in Kigali city where vehicular traffic was reduced.

On the other side, it states that vulnerable populations that sheltered at home during pandemics were more exposed to indoor air polluting agents due to the increased use and burning of low-quality fuels.

Conclusions and recommendations

The report recommends that Rwanda implement climate-smart solutions, including mass transport systems that use clean energy from renewable resources.

“The smart public transport system will be favoured by the public if it is efficient and on time, while huge tariffs on the use of personal fossil fuel driven cars can deter the public from owning and using fossil fuel driven cars,” the recommendation says.

If current efforts are maintained, the report suggests that Rwanda will become a low-carbon country by 2050 through incremental investments in clean energy.

It said that the most effective and efficient way to protect public’s health from the harmful effects of outdoor air pollution is to reduce ambient concentrations by using emission controls.

It says that forest restoration efforts will lead to a significant decrease in the severity and frequency of disasters like floods and landslides. However, the country will need to invest in early warning capabilities so that there is little or no loss of life and property due to these disasters.

“There is still a lot to do in terms of managing and protecting the natural resources. Like other countries in the region, Rwanda has been, and continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Recommendation to accelerate restoration of wetlands

The report has also recommended accelerating the process of rehabilitation of Rugenge- Gikondo wetlands and others in the City of Kigali wetland network.

Management plans for the Rweru-Mugesera wetlands and Akagera wetlands are also recommended.

The government has already met its major target of 30% forest cover by 2020.

The report however suggests that Rwanda should promote alternative sources for energy for cooking and modern fuel-cooking technologies to reduce domestic consumption of biomass energy, which is still around 86 percent.

It is important to develop a national integrated and sustainable strategy for waste management in Rwanda to build an efficient waste management system.

According to researchers, this will guide waste management practices and incorporate waste minimization with other technologies for unlocking potential opportunities in the waste sector.

Integrated conservation agriculture can provide profitable agricultural yields and minimize environmental damage. This approach could lead to high-quality soil management.

Other recommendations include the effort to assess the quality of water bodies across the country. This should involve repetitive monitoring at the same locations and sampling locations in order to detect trends in water quality.

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