Environmental crime is an illegal act which directly harms the environment.
The crime which is the fourth largest criminal activity in the world is increasing by five to seven per cent every year according to reports.
A probe by Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) from August 8 to August 14, has uncovered top environmental polluters violating the 2018 environmental law in the districts of Kamonyi, Muhanga, Gakenke, Ngororero and the three Kigali city districts.
According to REMA, at least five mining companies, five clay mining activities, and four sand mining activities in the districts of Kamonyi, Muhanga, Gakenke and Ngororero were found to be polluting the environment.
The probe found that the mining companies were causing soil erosion, polluting rivers, wetlands and failing to rehabilitate the mining sites.
Minerals washed in streams, rivers and lakes are fined with Rwf3 million according to the law.
The agency also found that some suspended mining operators were illegally operating without license.
“Some were operating without complying with recommendations from Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study,” reads part of the report released on Tuesday.
Environmental Impact Assessment is a tool used to assess the significant effects of a project or development proposal on the environment.
EIAs make sure that project decision makers think about the likely effects on the environment at the earliest possible time and aim to avoid, reduce or offset those effects.
According to inspectors, the investigated mining companies were also found with no employees dedicated to environmental protection.
Industries, public buildings
According to the report, owners of industries and public buildings have failed to conduct and comply with the IEA to avoid likely effects on the environment at the earliest time.
During the inspection, six of them were investigated.
It also shows that the industries and public buildings are not sorting out waste and have not embraced waste water treatment.
“The institutions were operating yet they have never conducted Environmental Impact Assessment,” reads the report.
The law says that launching a project that may have harmful effects on the environment without an assessment attracts suspension of activities or closure besides being compelled to rehabilitate the damage to the environment plus an administrative fine of two percent of the total cost of the project.
Washing bays in wetlands
The investigation found that vehicles are being washed and discharging waste water into wetlands while some are dumping waste into the wetlands.
“Those washing vehicles should be using licensed car washing stations. Washing vehicles in wetlands pollutes the water sources and degrades biodiversity,” REMA warns.
Anyone who carries out any activities of compacting or changing the nature of the wetland except those related to research and science, in protected swamps pays an administrative fine of Rwf5 million and is ordered to rehabilitate damages.
Bakeries packaging in plastics
Despite the fact that single use plastic items were banned under the 2019 environmental law, the inspection found that some bakeries are still packaging bread into plastics.
It found that other food items are also still being packaged in plastics and single use plastics.
The report also disclosed businesses that are still retailing single use plastics such as straws, folks, cups among others.
According to REMA, during the investigation at least 1,560 Kilogrammes of single use plastic items were collected for recycling.
The law says that wholesalers of plastic carry bags and single-use plastic items are fined an administrative fine of Rwf700, 000) and dispossession of those plastic carry bags and such items.
A retailer faces administrative fine of Rwf300,000 and dispossession of those plastic carry bags and such items.
Dumping waste on Mount Kigali
“A lot of waste is being dumped on Mount Kigali,” says the report, adding that mismanaged waste pollutes the environment and causes diseases.
Any person who piles, abandons, disposes of wastes or dump waste water or materials on unauthorized public or private places pays fine of Rwf50,000 and is ordered to remove substances or rehabilitate damages.
If The Acts are committed by a person authorized to treat waste, he/she is liable to an administrative fine of Rwf5 million and the authorization is also suspended or withdrawn.
Mount Kigali, where waste dumping was found, is one of the places in Kigali that is being developed into tourist destination.
Felling immature trees
The inspection on construction projects also uncovered that 15 housing construction projects are using illegally harvested ‘immature trees’ instead of using metals or planks.
A person who uses immature trees in construction faces between Rwf300,000 and Rwf1 million fine depending on the size of the house they are building.
A driver of a truck carrying immature harvested trees faces Rwf500,000 fine while a person who illegally sells immaturely harvested trees is punished with a Rwf1 million fine.