As Rwanda strives to attain universal access to water supply and sanitation services by 2024, Nyabarongo River is playing a bigger role in the process of delivering water for domestic, commercial and industrial use.
The river most of us take for granted has always been the primary source of domestic water supply in its surrounding settlements including the capital, Kigali. Over the years, population growth, urbanization and industrialization led to an acute water shortage problem. Facing this challenge, we asked Nyabarongo to give more.
The Kigali Bulk Water Project, scheduled to be completed in 2020, will be drawing extra 40 million liters of water per day from Nyabarongo. This is equivalent to one-third of Kigali’s current supply.
A number of new water treatment plants are under construction and existing ones are being upgraded in response to the rising demand for clean water. These include Kanyonyomba and Nzove plants. As we invest in these projects, we once again request Nyabarongo to give more.
Nyabarongo flows across all five provinces of Rwanda. In doing so, it sustains a rich riverine biodiversity and responds positively to our nagging pleas.
The beginning of its course is the confluence of Mbirurume and Mwogo rivers which flow from Nyungwe forest. When the two tributaries merge to form Nyabarongo, the latter flows northwards for about 85 kilometers. Along the way, it forms the boundary between the Western Province and the Southern Province.
At some point, northern Rwanda’s elevated terrain forces the river to drift towards the southeast. Then it flows for approximately 12 kilometers before taking a more southern direction. This stretch borders the Northern Province and the Southern Province.
Farther downstream, it separates the Southern Province from the City of Kigali. After bypassing the capital, the longest river in Rwanda serves as the boundary line between the City of Kigali and the Eastern Province.
The partitioning of Rwanda’s five provinces was made easy by the nature of Nyabarongo’s extensive course. From the sky, it looks like a snake gliding from the southwest to the southeast, dragging its long body around the northern and central hills en route to Lake Rweru.
Nyabarongo seems to be all over the place. You are likely to cross it whenever you travel within Rwanda. Last time I left Kigali, I crossed it twice before I reached my destination.
Nyabarongo is part of a network of rivers that form the upper headwaters of the Nile, the main source of fresh water in Sudan and Egypt. The Nile played a significant role in the development of ancient Egypt and world civilization. In Egypt, this iconic geographical feature is referred to as the river of life.
Back home, Nyabarongo runs through history and folklore. It supports wildlife and dispenses water we desperately need. In addition, it waters our crops and runs the turbines of four hydropower plants. From its source to its mouth and beyond, Nyabarongo never stops giving.
Inability to control soil erosion and curb pullution is failure to protect our own lives. When it comes to the rehabilitation of Nyabarongo, we can’t afford to fail.
The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on Twitter @GeoExposure.