Seven people have been arrested in Kanzenze Sector, Rubavu District for allegedly degrading Gishwati-Mukura National Park.
The suspects were arrested red-handed on Thursday while cutting trees in part of the forest in Muramba Village, Muramba Cell.
“On Thursday at about 5:30pm, Police in Kanzenze received information that a group of people was cutting trees in the gazetted Gishwati National Park, Police responded and found seven residents of Muramba, who were arrested and handed over to Rwanda Investigation Bureau at Kanama,” Chief Inspector of Police (CIP) Innocent Gasasira, the Police spokesperson for the Western region, said.
“Most of those arrested are either cutting trees for building or firewood, livestock farming and with rare cases related to charcoal burning,” he added.
“We have been conducting awareness campaigns against deforestation practices in Gishwati, and we are seeing a tremendous reduction… we haven’t had a case related to charcoal burning over the last two months,” the spokesperson explained.
Gishwati-Mukura is Rwanda’s newest national park that was nearly depleted some years ago due to encroachment, illegal mining in the mineral-rich forest and livestock farming.
The government is set to unveil its tourism attraction to position it as one of the highly attractive and unique tourism destination in Rwanda and to further boost the country’s tourism revenues.
“We try to educate the neighboring communities on the ill-effects of their activities in the park, the legal repercussion and its importance to the national economy and their development in particular,” CIP Gasasira said.
He added: “Some of them like those cutting trees for firewood don’t even know that what they are doing is unlawful, so we labour much to sensitise and turn them into environmental activists, as a result we are seeing some of them now reporting people they see encroaching on the park for varied illegal reasons.”