By Elias Hakizimana.
The government of Rwanda is looking for a long-term solution to prevent extreme flooding from Sebeya River, which has threatened to cause enormous damages including loss of lives.
Officials say a study will soon be conducted by a team of experts in addition to the retaining wall which will be constructed on Sebeya river banks among other solutions which include planting trees and installing sandbags along the river.
The flooding has recently claimed lives of seven people and leaving thousands of others stranded due to devastated crops and infrastructures.
The efforts were pulled together during the celebration of World Water Day that organized Umuganda community work to put in place infrastructures that will be averting flooding risks in Rubavu district.
Experts say the current water challenges such as flooding, drought and water pollution are made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes’ catchments, lack of wastewater treatment, wetland degradation, unsustainable mining and lack of sustainable financing.
Such challenges affect hydropower production, biodiversity loss, reducing agriculture produce due to drought, erosion, and flooding, lack of safe drinking water, loss of lives and property due to disasters among others, they say.
According to Gilbert Habyarimana, mayor of Rubavu District, about 1,200 families affected by the flooding still lack support for resettlement and food for surviving in the affected area.
The residents are not currently accessing to safe drinking water, lack of toilets and others.
“356 toilets were also destroyed and this can expose people to diseases as human waste is scattered in different areas.However, we have availed medicaments for intervention when any case of diseases is found,” he said.
He added some temporary toilets serving many people are also to be built while they wait to get better toilets and residential houses.
The mayor mentioned that damaged water taps are being rehabilitated to avoid using polluted water.
The nature-based solutions to the water challenges include river banks protection, catchments rehabilitation, floodplains and wetlands restoration on rebalancing water cycle, improving livelihoods as well as reducing the risk of flooding.
Prime Ngabonziza, the Director General of Rwanda Water and Forestry said: “As we face extreme weather events due to climate change, we have to learn how to adapt to them. This flooding is triggering loss of soil mainly because of lacking rainwater harvesting, sustainable mining, terraces and forest in the river catchments,” he said.
Residents should sustain the infrastructures put in place since they are the primary benefit from them and leave a good legacy to benefit the future, he remarked.
Sebeya river catchment is being rehabilitated under the support of Netherland embassy which has allocated 18 million Euros for investments in the four demonstration catchment areas of Nyabarongo, Sebeya, Nyabugogo and Muvumba rivers.
Jan Vlaar, the first secretary at Netherland embassy said that failing to protect Sebeya River from erosion could continue to pose a negative impact on power plants connected to it.
He said there is need of sustainable agriculture and mining so as to fight soil erosion adding that agro-forestry would improve farming while protecting the environment.
The water day celebration aimed at raising awareness among the public about nature-based solutions to address water challenges, the interdependence between water and forests in the quest for sustainable development, the importance of considering nature-based solutions in the sustainable management of water, stakeholder’s role in the process of catchment planning and its concrete results.