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Rwanda is set to invest $6.8 million (Rwf7.2 billion) from 2022 to 2027 in managing hazardous chemical waste.

Hazardous chemical waste is defined as any liquid, gaseous, or solid chemical that is ignitable, corrosive, reactive, toxic, or persistent, and is no longer useful or wanted.

According to Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), the project will prevent chemicals containing Persistent Organic Pollutants and Mercury from entering Rwanda.

It will also minimize the generation, release, and emission of hazardous waste, as well as enhance the management and disposal of existing and yet-to-exist harmful chemicals, and products in Rwanda.

Juliet Kabera, the Director General of REMA said that the investment will help to establish hazardous waste treatment facilities including interim storage, and identify types, volumes, and locations of chemical, toxic, and hazardous waste generation and key sectors such as industries, healthcare, pharmacies, and agriculture, among others.

So far, she said, Rwanda is counting storage of around 122 metric tonnes of PCB oil to be managed and treated over the next five years.

PCBs are chemical pollutants found in electrical transformers that harm human and environmental health.

The country is also counting the storage of around three metric tonnes of POPs pesticides, and 44 metric tonnes of non-POP pesticides.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are chemicals of global concern due to their potential for long-range transport, persistence in the environment, as well as their significant negative effects on human health and the environment.

Over 35,000 metric tonnes of PBDE-containing waste, 250 metric tonnes of PCB –contaminated soil, and 40 metric tonnes of Mercury (Hg)-containing waste will also be treated.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) belong to a class of chemicals that are added to certain manufactured products in order to reduce the chances that the products will catch on fire while mercury is Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and soil.

Exposure to mercury – even small amounts of it– may cause serious health problems and is a threat to the development of the child before and after birth.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), inhaling mercury vapour can have harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs, kidneys and skin, and may be fatal.

The inorganic salts of mercury are corrosive to the skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract, and may induce kidney toxicity if ingested

Kabera said, “All are being targeted to be disposed of at the end of this project which will be resulting in reducing and avoiding 24.5 Gigatonnes of emissions.”

“We have also started the engagement of the private sector including the waste collectors in the sound environmental handling and disposal of hazardous waste streams,” she said.

Financed by Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNDP, the project is expected to benefit 300,000 beneficiaries directly through awareness about hazardous waste and job creation.

Jeanne D’arc Mujawamariya, the Minister for Environment says as a fast-growing economy, with rapid urbanization, Rwanda is experiencing an increase in the amount of domestic and municipal waste, as well as the increase of toxic, hazardous, and chemical wastes from Industrial and economic sectors.

“These wastes have significant impacts on land, air, and the quality of water bodies,” she said.

This project came at the time the country seeks to implement the $221 million National Circular Economy Action Plan up to 2035.

“Growing sectors such as industry, agriculture, and health lead to the release of persistent organic pollutants, mercury, and other harmful chemicals through air emissions, waste disposal, and soil contamination which gives the private sector a uniquely placed to contribute to this effort given its role in setting consumption trends by developing and promoting new technologies,” she noted.

According to Maxwell Gomera, the UNDP representative in Rwanda, “Waste management is a key stepping stone towards a circular economy. The first step is to eliminate waste and pollution to reduce threats to biodiversity.” - Michel Nkurunziza, The New Times

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