Rwanda: Part of Gisozi Business Centre to Be Demolished Over Pollution

Different facilities in Gisozi commercial hub commonly known as Agakiriro in Gasabo district have been given ultimatum to vacate following an inspection which revealed that they are polluting the nearby wetland in Gisozi sector.

One of the facilities to be affected is a market that had been built for former street vendors in Kigali’s most popular furniture hubs that was established after relocating the former Agakinjiro from the Central Business District.

While the market was built following an engagement between Gasabo District and investors, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) is threatening to demolish it.

Last week REMA brought bulldozers to pull down the building but the district is demanding more time to be able to get another place for the street vendors.

Besides being encroached on by construction activities, the wetland receives elevated flows and poor water quality from the highly urbanized upstream catchment.

Juliet Kabera, Director General of REMA told The New Times that the wetland near the Gisozi business centre has to be fully conserved and therefore all facilities that have encroached on it are going to be removed to pave the way for its rehabilitation.

“The wetland master plan developed in 2019 outlines a list of wetlands in Kigali city. There is a lot of pressure on wetlands in Kigali city. Some can be sustainably used while others have to be fully protected and conserved and Gisozi wetland is one of those,” she said.

She explained that once rehabilitated, the wetland will be able to attenuate floods from surrounding hills that usually ravage the area.

“Besides the market, there are also over 38 kiosks that have to be demolished because the map shows that they are polluting the wetland. Apart from these, there are many other buildings in the Gisozi business centre which we have ordered to be removed,” she said.

Kabera said that REMA is closely working with Gasabo district, City of Kigali and local government to seek another place where the street vendors market will be relocated.

Meanwhile, the City of Kigali plans to establish nine mini-markets to accommodate 3,832 street vendors and REMA has warned against building facilities in the wetland.

Gasabo District Executive Administrator, Pauline Umwali, told The New Times that they had built the market as a way of supporting street vendors without information that the area was part of a wetland.

“With the naked eye, it was not easy to establish that the place is part of the wetland. Only the map makes it clear. We partnered with investors to support the street vendors and we are requesting for a grace period for the street vendors to temporarily use the market as we find other alternatives,” she said.

Aline Mukeshimana, one of the street vendors, urged authorities to find a strategic marketplace for them once the existing one is demolished.

“The authorities can’t be happy if we go back to the street for vending. They should take the right decision that doesn’t affect us because we have loans from banks that we are yet to pay back,” she said.

ADARWA, a cooperative which was engaged by the district to build the market for street vendors said demolishing the facility is a big loss for the investors.

“There are over 350 stands in the market but vendors who need those stands are even over 350. It is a loss for both ADARWA and vendors,” said one of the investors in the cooperative who preferred anonymity.

Progress on removing illegal activities from wetlands

An inventory conducted by REMA in 2019 indicated that there were over 7,222 illegal activities that had encroached wetlands in Kigali city.

An initial survey by had found that 78.9 percent of 7,222 illegal activities in wetlands were residential homes, 9.44 per cent were commercial houses, and 2.85 per cent were livestock activities while 3.18 per cent were mixed commercial and residential activities.

The survey indicated that approximately 55 per cent of the activities didn’t have any legal documents that authorize them to do so.

In the beginning of last year, at least 6,515 activities had been evicted from city wetlands.

The biggest number of evicted encroachers was in Gasabo District, where 4,787 activities were removed from wetlands.

The district in total had 5,072 activities in the wetland.

City of Kigali said 557 activities of 562 in Kicukiro District were evicted while 1, 171 activities out of 1,588 in Nyarugenge District were also removed.

Over 20 per cent of wetlands in Kigali city – equivalent to 15.76 square kilometres -should be rehabilitated so as to regain quality and pristine nature, a new Kigali urban wetland master plan has revealed.

Over $12 million is set to be invested in rehabilitating five major wetlands in Kigali city.

The master plan developed by the Ministry of Environment indicates that Kigali has 7, 700 hectares or 77 square kilometres.

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