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Learn about how Rwanda restored their dried wetlands for generating electricity.
Tags:The Importance of Wetland Restorations in Rwanda,earth report,environmental degradation Ethiopia,over farming effects in Africa,wetland restoration Rwanda,wetlands electricity generation in Rwanda,wetlands in Rwanda,Land Over Use- Wetland Restoration
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Turning Barren Land into Fertile Land in Ethiopia
Male: Environmental degradation is not only a problem for the dry regions of Ethiopia. It can be just as devastating for countries like Rwanda, where rainfall is plentiful. This tiny country is grappling with the problem of a growing population, trying to eke out a living on a finite amount of land.
As in China and Ethiopia, over-farming on the hillsides cause serious erosion and a decline in fertility forcing poor farmers to move into protected areas such as the Rugezi wetlands, a wildlife site of international importance. When farmers drained this marsh to grow more food, they not only damaged an important wetland ecosystem, they also had a significant impact three hours drive away in Kigali, the capital city. The water that pours from the marshland is a vital source of hydro-power for Rwanda’s capital. As the wetlands begin to dry out, power stations below couldn’t generate enough electricity.
The Rwandan government went to diesel power generators to make up the shortfall. Dr Rose Mukankomeje took me to see them.
Dr Rose: So what is happening here is that those generators we are renting them from this company and we are then obliged to rent to them especially when we degraded the wetland and we lost 20 megawatts of electricity and to run those machines we’re paying 65,000 U.S. dollars a day.
John Liu: Sixty five thousand dollars a day - that’s multi-millions of dollars.
Dr Rose: Yes it is six million dollars and as you must, might know Rwanda is not a rich country. Some of that money has been borrowed from the bank, as from tax payers.
John Liu: How does this affect the climate?
Dr Rose: Of course those machines they run on diesel and when you burn the diesel up you are producing greenhouse gases.
Male: Environmentally damaging and more expensive, locals have to pay three times as much for their electricity so government policy makers focused on how to restore the Rugezi wetlands. If people were the problem they could also be the solution.
H.E. Paul Kagame: We had to take a careful look at what had actually been happening. That damaged this system and therefore had to reverse that again with the human action and this is why it is important to look at how human actions can destroy or can reverse what has been destroyed or even protect our environment.
Male: The government decided to help the farmers leave the wetlands and to restore the degraded slopes above them improving their croplands and encouraging trees and shrubs to grow back capturing the rain.
Dr Rose: We have been supporting them by doing terraces specifically there on the hills where they can increase and improve the productivity. The most important thing is to have people with you on your side.
Male: The Rugezi wetlands are now recovering, great volumes of water once again cascade down to power the hydro stations. Carbon-free electricity is replacing the diesel generators, electricity prices have stabilized. What the Rwandan’s recognized is that the marshlands are far more valuable as a natural system providing water for energy than as farmland. This principle is the same for the remaining hillsides and ravines.
John Liu: What we are seeing here is very interesting because it’s aligned between human activity and natural systems. And in human activity we’ve been able to value the productive from agriculture and give it a monetary value. But in the natural systems we haven’t been able to value the trees, the biodiversity, the water that is absorbed into the bio mass and into the soils.
And there is another vital service that trees and plants provide. Photosynthesis, vegetation reduces the greenhouse effect by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Legesse Negash: Climate change is better restored with trees. You know humans no matter how intelligent we are, no matter how capable we are with all these technologies we are helpless in the face of climate change. We have not yet properly understood the miracles performed in the bio trees.
Male: Restoring and preserving natural ecosystems like the Reguzi wetlands benefits everyone and so much more can be achieved.
H.E.Paul Kagame: If we had more involvement by different institutions coming in to help with our variable sources Rwanda could have been more and much more and they benefit much more but so that would be accomplished if such partnerships and support were provided.
Male: A measure of what can be achieved has been shown here on China’s Loess Plateau where restoring the natural vegetation has helped the farmers to prosper despite the worst drought in decades.
Over 15 years, the soil that nurtures their crops has been accumulating organic material from plants and animals. This holds the moisture and contains carbon.
John Liu: What’s interesting about this is all these root materials, all this other stuff, this is organic material and this organic material is mixing together with the loess, the geologic soils here and it’s making a living soil. This is where the moisture resides, yesterday it rained and there’s still moisture in this soil. This is where the nutrients are recycled so that each generation of life emerges here and this is where the carbon is. What’s interesting about this they made this field, this is new, so they’re helping to sequester carbon.
Male: Living soils like this retain on average three times more carbon, than the foliage above the ground. All this new vegetation naturally absorbs carbon through photosynthesis. If a scientist suggests a quarter of the earth’s land mass has been degraded, imagine what effect restoring those regions would have on reducing human impact climate change.
What we’ve seen in China, in Africa and around the world is that it’s possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems. If we can transfer the capital, the technology and empower the local people to restore their own environment, it will have enormous benefits. Restoration can sequester carbon, reduce biodiversity loss, mitigate against flooding, drought and famine. It can ensure food security for people who are now chronically hungry. Why don’t we do this on a global scale?
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