Kigali. Different stakeholders from the Albertine Rift region are gathering in Kigali for a regional dialogue on environment and development themed “Balancing Environment and Development through ESIA in the Albertine Rift”. This dialogue was organized and facilitated by the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS Network) in collaboration with Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) with financial support from Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). It was held on 30th May 2017 at Chez Lando Hotel in Kigali, following a field visit to KivuWatt project at Lake Kivu conducted on 29th May 2017.
The Regional Environment and Development Dialogue aims at promoting a transparent and participatory Environmental and Social Impact Assessments to effectively inform decisions over economic development projects in the Albertine Rift region. The event also coincides with the Environment Week in Rwanda. Consequently, the World Environment Day for year 2017 has the theme “Connect People to Nature”, and takes forward the call to integrate nature and protect the Earth that we share as we develop.
“You would have heard people saying that when you want to develop faster, you do not care about the environmental management but you just go on with the economic development activities as planned and come back for the environmental management when you are done. But the truth is, you cannot separate environment and development if you want a real and long-term development. It is important that different stakeholders have a common understanding and collaborate for sustainable development. We commend the work done by ARCOS in putting together people from different backgrounds and different institutions in the region to discuss and frame a mechanism to work together for harmony between development needs and environmental management needs,” said Remy Duhuze, Director of Environment Regulations and Pollution Control Unit at REMA while opening the event on behalf on REMA.
In his welcome remarks, Dr Sam Kanyamibwa, the Executive Director of ARCOS, thanked all the participants and called on everyone to integrate environment and safeguard it in his/her everyday business. He said: "If we don’t integrate environment in our development plans, we are going nowhere. We can probably have buildings and many other infrastructures, but within few years we would be struggling to get those basics of life provided by nature such as the air we breathe, clean water, soil fertility, etc.” Environmental and Social Impact Assessment is a good tool to ensure balance between the development needs and environmental protection, if it is done in transparent and participatory way, he added.
“All the development projects should be subjected to environmental impact assessment to ensure that the project is not incompatible with the environment protection. Moreover, there should be a strong collaboration for the countries in the region as they share most of the ecosystem targeted for economic development activities such as oil and gas exploitation, hydropower development, etc.” said Balthazar Kanyamanza, Provincial Minister in charge of environment in North Kivu, DRC.
The Albertine Rift region is recognised for its richness in terms of biodiversity and ecological infrastructures with many endemic and globally threatened species as well as unique and very diverse mountain forests. In addition, the region has huge potential in terms of natural resources, some of which include mines and timber as well as oil and gas in almost all Albertine Rift lakes. The decision over the exploitation of the resources in the Albertine Rift must rely on the results of a participatory and transparent environmental and social impact assessment.
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