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Tracing the source of Mukungwa River

Tracing the source of Mukungwa River

About a week ago, I shared my experiences riding Indakangwa, a made in Rwanda adventure bike, to My Hill Ecolodge on the shore of Lake Ruhondo. When I made it there, I was astonished by the view of all the five volcanoes soaring to the clouds along the border. While having dinner on the terrace, I couldn’t stop marveling at the blurry sight of the volcanoes as darkness enveloped the sky.

I saw the lake disappearing in the gloom of the night. Lit lanterns from the fishing boats made it look like a diamond-sprinkled surface. My host informed me that there are times when the lake turns yellow. Ruhondo is a kinyarwanda word derived from the occasional yellowish appearance of the lake.

When I woke up in the morning, I crossed the lake by boat. We docked near Ntaruka hydro power plant at the foot of the hill standing between lakes Ruhondo and Burera. Yes, there is another lake on the other side of this hill. The two neighboring water bodies are known as the Twin Lakes.

There is a stream on the upper side of Lake Burera flowing from Rugezi swamp in the highlands of Buberuka. Before the formation of the volcanoes, the said stream used to flow towards the west. The emergence of the Virunga Massif blocked its course and channeled it to the southern valley that eventually became Lake Burera. This stream still pours into Lake Burera. As a matter of fact, it is the reason the lake exists.

There is a pipeline dropping water from Lake Burera to her twin sister, Lake Ruhondo. Water flushed through this pipeline whirls turbines, which in turn, convert kinetic energy into electricity. This pipeline is the only physical connection between the two lakes.

I trekked to the southern tip of Lake Ruhondo and traced the source of Mukungwa River. Here, water is pumped to Mukungwa hydro power plant through an underground channel. Farther downstream, Mukungwa pours into Nyabarongo, the longest river in Rwanda.

I discovered Mukungwa River in February 2018. This discovery happened when I participated in a thrilling canoeing tour, courtesy of Kingfisher Journeys. While paddling along its meandering course, I saw a birding paradise. This expedition raised my curiosity and made me eager to learn more about the river and its environs.

When the volcanoes stood on the way of one gentle stream, it changed its course and filled one valley, forming Lake Burera in the process. From Burera, its water filled a second valley and formed Lake Ruhondo. Currently, two man-made structures serve as links between the two lakes and Mukungwa River.

The stream responsible for the formation of the Twin Lakes and Mukungwa River has created tourist attractions and a source of livelihoods for many fishermen and farmers while generating electricity to the tune of 23.5 MW . At some point, Mukungwa joins forces with Nyabarongo which is part of the upper headwaters of the Nile and the primary source of domestic and industrial water supply in Kigali and other parts of Rwanda.

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