Wetlands (Kinyarwanda terms, “Ibishanga n’ibibaya” or “ubutaka buhehereye”) play a vital role in maintaining water resources and are part of the green infrastructure of healthy catchments. They protect water quality, maintain water supplies by replenishing rivers and streams during the dry season, and more importantly, reduce the risk of flooding, sequester carbon and play many critical roles in Rwandan ecosystems. In addition, Rwandan wetlands offer habitat for a vast array of biological diversity that cannot survive elsewhere.
Number of wetlands
5176 337 ha
Wetlands Buffer Zone
Wetlands are classified according to characteristics such as soil type, vegetation, hydrology and climate zone.The biggest wetlands are floodplain wetlands of low altitude associated with major lakes such as Lake Cyohoha, Rweru, Mugesera, Nasho, and rivers, such as Nyabarongo, Akanyaru, Mukungwa, Base, Nyabugogo, among others.
Despite their importance, some wetlands in Rwanda face pressure from inappropriate forms of agriculture (uncontrolled fertilizers and pesticides), soil erosion, peat extraction, illegal mining, illegal infrastructure, pollutants from industrial wastewater discharge (organic waste, pathogens and heavy metals) among others. Wetlands degradation and pollution has a significant impact on water quality and quantity. The declining capacity for wetlands to provide critical ecosystem services has resulted in increased flooding – and attendant damage to infrastructure, lives, reduced productivity, and silting of water bodies.
Climate change, coupled with population growth, are additional threats to wetlands and freshwater resources. Therefore, sustainable practices which support healthy wetlands to perform their functions and provide goods and services to sustain human life, are therefore coming to the fore. Rwanda has shown commendable political will and taken tangible actions to address wetlands degradation and unsustainable use of water resources.
Rwanda recognizes the importance of wetlands and the need to manage them proactively. For example, current legislation classifies wetlands into total protected wetlands, or non-protected wetlands . The latter category is further divided into those with status of use under specific conditions, and those with a status of use without conditions.
These conditions are documented in the Prime Minister’s Order gazetted in 2017, which lists all swamp lands, their characteristics, boundaries and determining modalities of their use, development and management
To ensure sustainable utilisation of wetlands: