The rehabilitation of five degraded wetlands in Kigali City could, directly and indirectly, benefit 220,500 people who are at risk of flooding and water crises, The New Times has learned.
The wetlands to be rehabilitated include Rwampara, Gikondo, Nyabugogo, Kibumba, and the Rugenge-Rwintare Wetland System.
Experts say that wetlands have the capacity to mitigate floods. However, over the past four decades, urban growth in Kigali City has rapidly degraded wetlands such as the Rwampara wetlands.
According to the researchers, the degradation of the Rwampara wetland constitutes an alarming environmental problem that has not been given due attention when it comes to addressing issues related to water in Kigali City.
Rwampara is one of the areas that has been experiencing extreme flash flood events, and it has been noted that this is mainly due to a lack of storm water management strategies and infrastructure to accommodate peak runoff accumulation from upstream.
Studies show that the water supply to the city was affected as Rwampara wetland is recognised as one of the key sources of water to the City of Kigali.
From 1987 to 2019, the Gikondo wetland also increased leading to flood regulation failure.
Rugenge wetland and Kagina River are located in Kicukiro sector of Kicukiro District and connect to Gikondo, Rwintare, and Nyabugogo wetlands which filter the water that flows into the Nyabugogo River.
Speaking at a dialogue on the urban shift under the theme ‘New-Age Infrastructure to Build Flood Resilience and Enhance Biodiversity in Rwandan Cities’, Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, the Minister for Environment, reiterated the role of wetlands conservation in mitigating floods.
This dialogue was attended by representatives from different government institutions, mayors from the City of Kigali, Rubavu, Muhanga, Huye, Musanze, Nyagatare, and Rusizi districts, as well as representatives from subnational government, international development partners, and Urban Shift Global Platform partners.
She said rehabilitating the main wetlands in Kigali and secondary cities is aimed at reducing flood risks, biodiversity restoration, improving water quality, and enhancing urban landscape and recreational opportunities.
Mujawamariya said the degraded urban wetlands are being rehabilitated under Second Urban Development Project (RUDP II).
“This will mitigate floods, enhance biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she noted, stressing the urgent need for integrated urban development strategies such as flood-resilient infrastructure and biodiversity restoration that address the current flood impacts on cities.
Mujawamariya said there is a need for innovative, sustainable design and construction practices that integrate natural systems, green technologies, and smart solutions to enhance flood resilience while creating and preserving biodiversity within urban areas.
“Implementing green infrastructure, such as urban parks, green roofs, and rain gardens, can effectively manage storm water, reduce flooding risks, and improve the ecological quality of cities. These nature-based solutions provide multiple benefits, including improved air quality, temperature regulation, and recreational spaces for Rwandan communities,” she said.
According to the City of Kigali Mayor, Pudence Rubingisa, the City of Kigali since 2018 faced more than 300 unprecedented rainstorm incidents.
These, he said, claimed people’s lives, caused around 3, 249 injuries, and around 20 infrastructures were damaged due to floods and landslides.
“Considering the disaster issues that have hit the City of Kigali and the population growth which is also expected to increase pressure on nature, it is worth noting that there is no better timing to have a multilevel dialogue to build flood resilience and enhance biodiversity in Rwandan cities,” he said.
To overcome some of the issues caused by climate change, the City of Kigali is now implementing different projects where flood resilience and biodiversity are the key parameters considered right away from studies, he said.
Some of the projects, he said, include improving flood management on six prioritised flood risk hot spots where 10 hydraulic structures will be improved to properly manage the storm water in addition to five wetlands restoration.
“We are preparing a long-term storm water management master plan to address issues of flood and adopt nature-based solutions as our city keeps growing,” he added.