Rwanda marks World Environment Day with a focus on its wetlands

09/06/2004

Rwanda's "pre-accession workshop", 1-5 June 2004

While the world celebrated World Environment Day under the theme "Wanted! Seas and Oceans. Dead or Alive?", the Government of Rwanda has been marking its own environmental week, for the 11th time, from 31 May to 5 June 2004. Rwanda chose instead to commemorate its Environment Week with the slogan: "Together, let us protect the watershed and fight for the survival of our lakes, rivers and other wetlands". After all, Rwanda is a landlocked country and has neither seas nor oceans, and the majority of Rwandans depend on wetland resources (woods for fuel, land for cultivation and water from the available natural water sources) for their survival.

A workshop jointly organized by the government of Rwanda and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat was held as part of this environmental week, from 2-3 June 2004 in Kigali, with the theme of "Conservation and Management of Wetlands of Rwanda". The objective was to explore the issues related to the conservation and management of wetlands in Rwanda after the country's ratification of the Convention. It was attended by about 50 participants from different government services, the UN agencies (UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP), the university, the media, the NGO sector, and the general public. Abou Bamba, Ramsar Senior Advisor for Africa, and Prof. A. Woods represented the Convention.

The participants determined upon the creation of a Ramsar National Committee which will coordinate the Convention implementation in the country, with 29 members representing almost all the stakeholders of wetlands management. A plan of action for 2004-2005 was also elaborated together with a budget.

It's important to indicate that, despite the fact that it has just been authorized by its legislative bodies to ratify the Convention; Rwanda has achieved tremendous progress as far as wetland conservation is concerned. One can list: i) the preparation of a draft national wetlands policy, ii) a series of studies on the biodiversity of the wetlands in Rwanda and the role of wetlands in food production and security in the country, and iii) the collection of data and indicators on wetlands.

The workshop also decided that the "Rugezi, Bulera and Ruhondo complex" should be designated as the first Ramsar Wetland of International Importance of Rwanda. This complex is particularly important because when water levels drop, it threatens power generation for the entire country. The Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention will provide support to complete the designation process.

-- reported by Abou Bamba, Ramsar

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