It’s a good morning of late December 2022, at Rubavu shores of Lake Kivu, Western Province of Rwanda.
At the oldest brewery of Rwanda, Bralirwa, the blue-sky water of the Lake is free of plastic pollution despite being adjacent to the producer of millions of bottles.
However much watchful they are, the brewery company can’t however prevent rain water erosion from carrying their bottles from consumers and to deposit them into the water, thus becoming a major pollutant.
They pollute the Lake, a blessing of God to both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), to an extent that fishermen and adjacent residents claim they don’t know what to do.
Jean Claude Niyibizi, 30, a fisherman working in Nyamyumba sector, Rubavu district and his counterparts start work at 6:00PM, Kigali time. It is during the night where pollution intensifies, probably from people who intentionally change the lake into a dumping site because they don’t have other plans.
“Especially when there is wind, plastic waste come from DRC and cross into our area in Rwanda,” he said.
“Others come all the way from hilltops, carried by rainwater.”
Marie Claire Uzayisenga from Rusizi district was also able to trace the origine of the waste
She blames the issue on the climate change which has been causing uncontrollable rain which comes with erosion
“When it rains, debris are carried from the hills surrounding the lake and pollute its otherwise clean water and they include plastic wastes.”
“Plastic waste is increasing, except that there is even SINELAC that appoints workers to remove it when there is a lot of it. If they don’t take it out, it will be carried away by other rains that fall and go to different areas.
Anicet Nsengiyumva, another resident adjacent to lake Kivu also blames the rainwater. Pointing his finger to some plastic waste, he says “you see over there… most of what is thrown away are bottles! Now when it rains, erosion bring them to rest here in the Rusizi River. When they arrive, they reach the shores of Kivu’s waters”. “(…) but most of it came from DRC brought by erosion”, he added.
A woman who lives at Rusizi riverside says that plastic waste does not go without consequences.
lose its impact on people. “From the experience of plastic bags, we realise that when soil erosion deposits polythene bags into your farm, you forget about the harvest; they don’t allow water to reach the ground, therefore cannot allow plants to grow either,” she said.
“All plastic waste has a similar effect.”
The plastic waste from Lake Kivu do not affect agriculture efforts only; they also undermine fish growth on Lake Kivu.
“The Fish do not live in dirty places either, they love cleanliness!”says Marie Claire Uzayisenga from Rusizi.
Tackling stormwater plastics requires collaboration
It has been 3 years since the government of Rwanda started to deal with the use of single-use plastic because it affects human health and various species.
According to Emmanuel Musengimana, an Agronomist working from the shore of Lake Kivu, “ the effects of plastic waste are detrimental to the growth of biodiversity. The plastic interferes with the process of digestion of the silver fish, which hinder their growth.”
Often these things made of plastic injure these livings, according to Musengimana.
“If this plastic waste continues to accumulate in the body of the silver fish, they obstruct respiration free flow,” he further said.
According to Ildephonse Kambogo, Mayor of Rubavu district, in order to deal with the effects of plastic wastes on Lake Kivu brought by rainwater and wind, a new cooperative has taken an initiative to clean the shores of Lake Kivu.
From efforts in Rwanda, he believes that DRC will also borrow a leaf where, through community work-umuganda or Salongo as the other side calls it, the Lake will be cleaned thoroughly.
“We are in touch with local leaders in Goma. We made several commitments that will change the narrative in the coming year,” the Mayor said.
The mayor said that the plastic deposits in Lake Kivu are seasonal; they are always carried by strong winds and the latest case was reported in October 2022.