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Nyabarongo River: The gift that keeps on giving

Nyabarongo River: The gift that keeps on giving

As Rwanda strives to attain universal water supply 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 is the primary source of domestic water supply in Kigali and other parts of the country. 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 recently completed Kigali Bulk Water Project is drawing extra 40 million liters of water per day. This is equivalent to one-third of Kigali’s previously supplied volume.

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 and Nyamagabe respectively. When the two rivers merge to form Nyabarongo, the latter flows northwards for about 85 kilometers. Along the way, it forms the boundary line 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, it 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 extensive course of Nyabarongo. From the sky, it looks like a snake gliding from the southwest to the east, dragging its long body around a grandeur of hills. In Bugesera, the longest river in Rwanda merges with Kanyaru River to form Akagera River. Akagera in turn, flows to Lake Rweru along the Rwanda - Burundi border.

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 hydro power plants and counting. From its source to its mouth and beyond, Nyabarongo never stops giving.

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