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The New Times| The New Times

The New Times| The New Times

According to the State of Environment and Outlook Report 2021 the Covid-19 epidemic had both a negative and positive effect on the environment sector.

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

The report states that the Covid-19 epidemic has allowed wildlife to thrive and expand their territories in certain habitats. On the other hand it has impeded scientific research, monitoring of wildlife, and prevented the maintenance of parks and natural area.

“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 were safe from lower human activity.

However, the report points out that other areas have not been subject to scientific monitoring and surveillance of touristic environment. This might make it more vulnerable to illegal activities such as deforestation, grazing, and so on.

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

Due to the pandemic restrictions, tourism revenue fell 76 percent from $498 million in 2019 and $121 million 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 of the responses was the pilot projects that started the safe disposal of PPEs.

Local waste collection companies collect used gloves and masks at the Kabuye central collection centre, a Kigali suburb, where they are kept before being incinerated, REMA stated.

Impact on water 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 who were able to shelter at home during the pandemic experienced an increase in indoor air pollution as a result of the increased use and burning of poor-quality fuels.

Conclusions and recommendations

The report recommends that Rwanda implement climate-smart solutions, including mass transport systems powered with 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.

The report indicates that Rwanda’s incremental investment in clean energy will lead to a low carbon economy by 2050, if current efforts are continued.

It stated that the best and most efficient way to protect public health against the adverse effects of outdoor pollution is to reduce ambient levels through emission controls.

Forest restoration efforts will reduce the severity and frequency for disasters such as floods, landslides and earthquakes. However, the report states that the country must also invest in early warning capacity to ensure that there is minimal or no loss of human life and animals due to these catastrophes.

“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.”

Recommended: Acceleration of Wetlands Restoration

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

It is recommended that management plans are developed for the Rweru Mugesera and Akagera wetlands.

The government set a major goal of achieving 30% forest cover by 2020. This has already been achieved.

However, the report suggests Rwanda needs to promote alternative energy sources for cooking and modern fuel cooking technology to reduce the domestic consumption of biomass energy (which is still about 86%)

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

Researchers believe this will help to guide waste management practices and integrate other technologies to reduce waste.

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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