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Returning water to its natural course

Returning water to its natural course

A couple of days ago, I wrote something about my discovery of Akagera River. On that memorable day, I left Ngoma without any prior familiarity of the route I pursued. I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that I would eventually find myself somewhere in Bugesera. A stopover at Akagera River was therefore not scripted.

I have been mapping out a network of rivers meandering around the grandeur of green hills across the country. The study of Nyabarongo River has given me a newfound appreciation of what I call the flow of life. Whilst fascinated by the story behind the formation of Rusizi River, I am still pondering the mysteries of Mukungwa River. As this awe-inspiring journey picks steam, crossing rivers has become the norm.

In my opinion, water is more valuable than oil. We can do without oil but we can’t do without the former. In the future, the natural resource we take for granted will probably cost more than oil. Chances are, I won’t need my fuel-burning combustion engine when I embark on the next edition of the 30 Districts Expedition. The future I am talking about is closer than you think.

When my current engine is phased out, I will need more electricity than ever. Luckily, our rivers, gorges and falls are attracting massive investment in the energy sector. Rwanda’s hydro power subsector has recorded impressive growth over the past ten years. Overall, the country’s production capacity has reached 235 MW, with hydro power contributing 50.5%.

In agriculture, fresh water bodies are gifts that never stop giving. While crossing Akagera River, I gazed at the extensive wetland that has been transformed into a rice field.

A water collection facility is built on the edge of the plantation. The facility absorbs excess water from the field and returns it to the river. Farther upstream, a similar piece of engineering craftsmanship diverts some water to the plantation. Once in a while, the river bank bursts. When this happens, the spill threatens to damage crops — especially during the rainy season. Too much of everything is harmful. Here, I witnessed an innovative scheme designed to maintain required irrigation levels.

It wasn’t the first time I saw water being returned to its natural course. At Ntaruka power plant, water dropping from Lake Burera to Lake Ruhondo is used to generate electricity before being released to resume its life-saving mission. The same happens between Lake Ruhondo and Mukungwa River. Along the popular Nyabarongo River, this precious resource powers several hydro plants and sustains biodiversity while putting the needs of the Sudanese and the Egyptians into consideration.

The author is visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Bugesera is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, The Click Creations, Elimo Real Estate Ltd and Exposure

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