If you have ever been to Rwanda, you have probably seen the meandering course of Nyabarongo River. From the sky, the river looks like a snake crawling around a grandeur of beautiful hills.
Nyabarongo River supports biodiversity and dispenses water to the surrounding communities. In addition, it contributes to the production of renewable energy. Below is a list of five things you may not know about Nyabarongo River.
Nyabarongo is the longest river in Rwanda
Spanning the length of 351 kilometers, Nyabarongo is the longest river in Rwanda. The beginning of its course is the confluence of Mbirurume and Mwogo rivers near Bwakira. Mbirurume River flows from the northern tip of Nyungwe National Park while Mwogo’s source is on the southern edge of the forest. However, its Rukarara tributary is linked to the Kamiranzovu swamp.
From the southwest, Nyabarongo flows northwards for about eighty-five kilometers. After merging with Mukungwa River, it drifts towards the southeast for approximately twelve kilometers before taking a more southern direction. After bypassing Kigali, Nyabarongo joins forces with Kanyaru River to form Akagera River. Akagera in turn, flows to Lake Rweru at the border with Burundi.
Nyabarongo flows across all five provinces of Rwanda
Nyabarongo River flows across all five provinces of Rwanda, forming boundaries along the way. The first 85-km stretch forms the boundary line between the Western and Southern provinces. The 12-km part, after a merger with Mukungwa River, borders the Northern and Southern provinces. 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.
Part of the upper headwaters of the Nile
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. In Egypt, this iconic geographical feature is referred to as the river of life.
As mentioned above, Nyabarongo is formed by the merger of Mwogo and Mbirurume rivers. The source of its longest tributary is reportedly the farthest point of the Nile’s ecosystem.
Mukungwa River brings additional volumes from Rugezi swamps in the Northern Province. After merging with Kanyaru River to form Akagera River, the latter flows to Lake Rweru. Its outflow merges with Ruvubu River to form Kagera River which empties into Lake Victoria.
Primary source of domestic, commercial and industrial water supply in Kigali and other parts of the country
Rwanda’s goal to attain universal water supply by 2024 wouldn’t be realistic without the existence of Nyabarongo River.
The river most of us take for granted is the primary source of domestic, commercial and industrial water supply in Kigali and other parts of the country. Over the years, population growth, urbanization and industrialization have increased our dependence on Nyabarongo significantly.
Nyabarongo stimulates investment in the energy sector
Nyabarongo I and II hydropower projects (28 MW and 43.5 MW respectively) are examples of the utilization of the river beyond irrigation and water supply. Currently, hydropower contributes more than 50% of Rwanda’s total energy output.
Kagera River’s Rusumo Power Plant (80 MW) supplies electricity to Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi. More hydropower plants, powered by the tributaries of the Nile, are in the pipeline.