A Rwanda National Police (RNP) specialized unit charged with conserving the environment is set to conduct a countrywide systematic mapping of environmental crimes – a study that would facilitate the recently created unit to effectively conduct investigations aimed at combating threats to ecosystem.
This comes after five months of countrywide sensitization on environmental protection conducted by the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) that operates under the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
“The research will give us a clear picture of environmental status in the country particularly knowing where and how environment is abused and how to perverse it,” said Inspector of Police (IP) Robert Komire, the acting director of EPU.
“This doesn’t mean that we currently aren’t following up environmental crimes, whenever we have a case we investigate it thoroughly and follow the legal procedures, but the study will give us a wider picture and a subsequent best approach to fight and prevent any environmental crime,” he added.
“The role of RNP in environment protection comprises not only law enforcement but also participation in the preservation of environment through environmental education, practical interpretation of the environmental laws to citizens and engaging in the public environment management awareness process.”
The ‘Environment Protection Unit’ was launched in June by RNP and Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), to educate the public on environmental protection and to enforce the organic law on environment.
It has powers to arrest, summon and investigate all kinds of environmental related crimes.
“Most environmental crimes are less known, although the rate at which they are committed is also still very low. They can therefore pose threat if they are not prevented at an early stage, and the best way to do that is to first identify them,” IP Komire.
According to Komire, there are times when people unknowingly violate environmental laws like cutting down trees, domesticating or torturing wild animals like crested cranes, and monkeys which is against the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that lists such species as “endangered.”
“We decided to start with educating the public and so far we have reached out to all corners of the country. We focused most on mining and forestry as areas that were most affected….Before we conduct the mapping study we will hold information exchange and training forum with all our stakeholders” said Komire.
The stakeholders include local leaders, NGOs and security representatives at the district level, among others. The meeting is slated late this month.
The Police Environment Protection Unit is operational in all districts, having liaison officers. It makes spontaneous checks at porous borders, have periodical joint operation with park managers in national parks and conduct periodical trainings of Police officers and game rangers on a series of environmental conservation.
The unit protects the environment in all its aspects including air space, forestry and biodiversity, as well as the enforcement of different legal instruments.