Rwanda: 1,500 Businesses Risking Prison, Penalties Over Water Permits

More than 1,500 businesses are using water without permits and, a such, they face penalties as well as imprisonment, Doing Business has learnt.

Vital Munyandinda, the Water Use Permits Division Manager at Rwanda Water Resources Board (RWB), said that water resources are under increasing pressure, emphasizing the need for using them efficiently and effectively so as to ensure sustainable use for future generations.

“Currently, we have identified a total of approximately 2,200 big water users. And so far, only 696 have valid water use permits,” he said.

He said that according to the 2018 water use law (Article 36), “any person who uses water or carries out a water related activity without a water use permit as required, commits an offense.”

Upon conviction, the suspect is liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than two months and not more than three months and a fine of Rwf500,000 or only one of the penalties.

“Additionally, if businesses do not have water use permits, they are not recognised for water allocation and planning and they risk losing their water share, their abstraction sites or their concession areas,” Munyandinda explained.

Munyandinda said that they need to establish how much water is used, who uses it, and where users are located since it enables them to measure how much water is actually available for use.

This, he said, is based on the fact that in some areas, there is still extra water that can be made available for use, or there is already more water being used without considering the damage to the aquatic systems.

Who needs water use permits?

Munyandinda said that irrigating an area of more than one hectare is one example of an activity where people in charge need to apply for water use permits.

Construction of infrastructure on river banks or lakes and dams, fish farming, coffee washing stations, industries using water, hydropower plants, mining companies, gas extraction, marine navigation, and recreational activities using water bodies are some of the other businesses that should request permits before using water resources from rivers, lakes, and groundwater, among others.

“Water should be used efficiently, effectively and wisely. In order to do this, it’s important to use only the amount of water needed and remember that other people downstream also need it. We have to share water equitably in order to satisfy our needs not only for the present but also for future generations,” he added.

Negative effects from lack of water use permits

Munyandinda said that using water resources without permits triggers difficulties in managing water resources, and ineffective and inefficient water resources management which could affect the country’s socio-economic development.

“The effects also include lack of equitable water allocation due to the fact that the information on the available water, the used water and the needed water, by different users sharing the same source is not all known,” he said.

He added that the ineffective and inefficient use of water resources could lead to environmental degradation.

“If people use water without permits, it’s not possible to monitor and to inspect their use. Therefore, we have to ensure that they comply with the principle of environment protection,” he noted.

He said the effects also include failure to recover the cost for water resources investments.

“The government invests much funds into water resources management interventions such as catchments restoration, floods control, river banks protection and others.

“So, as water users benefit from that investment, they must understand the necessity of paying water use fees which will be used for further investments related to water resources management,” he said.

Adolphe Niragira, a farm manager at Garden Fresh Ltd, in Nyagatare District, requested for a water extraction permit to irrigate crops using sprinklers that extract water from a marshland in the District.

He explained that having a water permit is very important as the user can’t face any conflicts.

“During the dry season, we face drought challenges and when you do not possess the water permit, you encounter losses. Again, lack of the water permit leads to illegal operations as well as creating conflicts among water users in different activities such as agriculture, fishing, among others,” he said.

Christopher Rudaseswa, a technician in agriculture and fishing in Rwamagana District, noted that water users with water permits realize the importance of environment protection.

“Water users with water permits operate freely. They are likely to get support from the experts in the sector. And they are trained on how to use water resources by conserving the environment,” Rudaseswa said.

He noted that there is especially a danger of no environment protection when water resources are used illegally.

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