By Pablo Moraga
Kigali, Dec 16 (EFE) – After banning polyethylene bags in 2008 and more than a decade of policies aimed at eradicating the use of this material, Rwanda is seeking to further tighten legislation so it can become plastic-free.
Under the current law, importing, producing, using, or selling polyethylene bags is already punishable by fines and even jail time and now the Rwandan government is preparing an ambitious program to ban all single-use plastics, from straws to plastic bottles.
“It’s not a simple task,” environmental engineer Adeline Cyuzuzo tells Efe in an interview.
But she remains hopeful, as she recalls that the ban on plastic bags was also a daunting task that was eventually effective.
Cyuzuzo works as an executive assistant for The Green Protector NGO, whose members are young Rwandans who share a common passion for nature.
The charity does a lot of outreach work in schools to raise awareness among students about the climate crisis and the importance of protecting the environment.
Cyuzuzo says that most of the country is rural, with farmers accounting for 70% of the population and whose livelihoods depend on fertile soils.
“Nature is part of Rwanda’s identity and makes our country beautiful and unique,” she says.
In recent years, the expert has observed with concern the increase of floods, landslides, and changing weather patterns in Rwanda.
“Allowing such environmental degradation to occur without resistance is simply not an option,” Cyuzuzo says.
RWANDA’S GREAT TRANSFORMATION
Rwanda has come a long way since 1994 when at least 800,000 people died during three months of bloody genocide.
Modern Rwandans are working to develop their nation and overcome the differences that sparked the massacres.
Rwandan authorities see environmental protection as key to that transformation.
Some of the country’s environmental projects have succeeded in repopulating the savannahs of the Akagera national park with species that were endangered, as is the case of mountain gorillas which are a major national tourist attraction.
However, some critics experts Efe spoke to have accused the government of greenwashing its image through these innovative projects to veil a long history of repression of political dissidents.
But what is undeniable is that environmental policies in Rwanda are working.
Unlike other cities in the region, plastic waste is not visible in the streets of Kigali, which are the cleanest in East Africa.
The city’s landscape is made up of lush verdant hills that are home to both striking modern buildings and more humble homes.
RWANDA’S WAR ON PLASTIC
The ban on single-use plastics is taking longer to kick in than expected after several firms lobbied for a delay in implementing the new rule — approved by parliament in 2019 — arguing that they needed more time to source alternative, environmentally friendly materials.
Despite the delay, the country’s plans are still on track.
In March, at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Rwanda called for the support of the international community to help reduce plastic pollution saying that it is a global problem that must be addressed by everyone. EFE