The way we live (green) now in Rwanda

This Kigali pharmacy has taken the city regulation for flower pots to heart -- with clipped weeping figs in the ground and then more pots behind them.
This Kigali pharmacy has taken the flower pots requirement to heart — with clipped weeping figs in the ground and then more pots behind them.

The city of Kigali has a requirement that all shops must have flower pots at their entrances.  I learned this yesterday from our local newspaper, The New Times.

According to the article “Kigali City residents bemoan KCC* policies,”

[a business owner,] who deals in hardware business, . . . especially criticized the policy of flower pots at the front of every shop. All shops are supposed to have flower pots in front of them, a policy that was established in 2011.

“We are struggling with paying taxes which are high on top of that they are asking us to buy flower pots which cost between Rwf 15,000 to 20,000. Not all of us love flowers,” he said. “Every time I see these flower pots in front of my shop, I feel like it’s making my shop ugly because I would prefer something more artistic other than a flower pot but then I also can’t have two decorations at my door.” . . .

Last week, during an inspection, a few shops were locked up because of not having flower pots outside their shops.

I don’t know how many or what size pots are required.  Rwf 15,000 is about US$24.

Back on  January 19, I was also diverted by the article “Eleven arrested smuggling plastic bags:”

The police have  arrested 10 Burundians and a Rwandan found smuggling 400 cartons of plastic paper bags and marijuana into the country.

The suspects were arrested in Kibungo town. They were travelling by bus heading to Kigali, from Kirehe district.

Police said the suspects had smuggled the goods through one of the most notorious entry points on the Burundi and Rwanda border in Gahara sector.

Rwanda banned disposable plastic bags in 2005. The ban was effected in three years later. However, Rwanda, which replaced the menacing bags with paper bags, is the only country of the five EAC member states with effective policy on plastic bags.

The initiative was a response to the plastic’s negative environmental impact, amid extensive physical presence of bags across the country.

Supt. Benoit Nsengiyumva, the Eastern Province Police spokesman, said the suspects would be charged as soon as investigations are complete.

“Rwanda is now entering its fourth year with a nationwide ban on all plastic bags. This is what we are guarding; as Police and we won’t rest,” he said.

Nsengiyumva said the suspects would also be charged with illegal entrance into the country and trafficking in marijuana, an illegal drug.

Note which crime is emphasized in the article.

Rwanda takes its restriction of plastic very seriously.  Passengers arriving on international flights are warned to leave behind their duty-free store bags, and once, returning from Pretoria, I had to pull off all the security plastic wrap from my suitcase before I could exit the baggage area.

While I could go either way about storefront potted plants, I do like this plastic bag prohibition.  I remember how the last place we lived in Africa — Niamey, Niger — was just inundated by this particularly obnoxious form of trash.  The bags are such a plague on the continent that a common joke is to refer to them as the national bird, seen nesting in the trees and fields.

But they are extinct in Rwanda.

.   .   .  And behold,
the plastic bag is magic;
there is no closing it. . . . .

William Matthews, from “The Waste Carpet

*Kigali City Council

4 thoughts on “The way we live (green) now in Rwanda

  1. Both issues are quite interesting. I’m not sure how I stand on either one. Although I would love to see more greenery in any city, I’ve seen flower pots here that have been neglected – I have gone inside and told the store keeper to water them. So, I think the city planting trees might be a better project. As for the plastic bags – I hate them! Still, not sure any court’s time is best served by having it be a crime. Always interesting, though, to hear about environmental issues in other countries.

  2. There must be some mysterious reasons to not want pots in shops façades, who knows! But what I applaude is their ban to acept plastic in the country. It is a dangerous plague and all you do to fight against is very positive. I am really worried about plastic in the sea, and the effects in islands.

  3. Hi Holley and Lula,

    Thanks for your comments!

    The Kigali government has put great emphasis in recent years on making the city look better. Particularly nice (and good for health and safety) has been the extensive building of sidewalks, better trash removal, and more street lights. But they also want every citizen to do his or her part (in the absence of public money, of which there is very little), hence the requirement for potted plants at businesses and also that homeowners keep the streetside areas of their properties looking neat.

    The plastic bags scourge is such a public problem (In Niger, in the absence of regular household trash pickup, bags get into the soil, making it untillable, and into the stomachs of cattle, killing them) that I think a prohibition is justified.

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