Rwanda is undertaking a project worth Rwf494 billion to mitigate the devastating floods triggered by volcanic activity. The government aims to bolster its efforts in safeguarding residents and protecting properties from destructive disasters, officials announced.
While a previous project was initiated in 2019 to manage volcano-related floods, its scope proved inadequate in addressing the problem effectively, according to Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, during his address to parliamentarians on June 30, highlighting the need for a more comprehensive initiative.
During a joint plenary sitting of Parliament, the Prime Minister briefed legislators on the government’s actions pertaining to disaster management and prevention. He emphasized the significance of a new project that seeks to prevent floods caused by water originating from Volcanoes National Park.
“We frequently witness calamities claiming lives, particularly in the districts of Burera and Musanze, due to volcanic waters. Hence, we have devised a strategy to tackle this issue,” Ngirente said, underscoring the persistent threat posed by devastating floods.
The Volcanoes region is susceptible to frequent flooding, resulting in loss of life, property damage, displacement, and infrastructure destruction, including roads and bridges, according to the Rwanda Water Resources Board (RWB).
The RWB has outlined various measures to control volcano-related floods, such as constructing retention ponds to reduce the peak flow and intensity of water, developing water channels and ditches to enhance conveyance capacity, implementing gully bank protection through the planting of buffer trees, shrubs, and grass, and relocating individuals residing in high-risk areas.
Environment Minister Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya highlighted that the ongoing project focuses on four districts: Burera, Musanze, Nyabihu, and Rubavu. However, an expanded program has been devised to encompass Rutsiro, Ngororero, Gakenke, and Muhanga. The extensive project, which requires Rwf494 billion, has already secured $50 million (approximately Rwf58 billion) from the government for initial studies and essential groundwork.
The gullies formed by the volcanic waters have been a significant concern. So far, flood control measures have been implemented in nine gullies within the Volcanoes area. The Rwanda Water Resources Board has identified a total of 22 gullies across Burera, Musanze, Rubavu, and Nyabihu.
Senator Fulgence Nsengiyumva suggested that rather than channeling the volcanic water directly into River Nyabarongo, measures should be taken to retain it for usage during droughts. He said, “When there is an excess of water, it becomes problematic, but when its supply is limited, it also poses challenges.”
MP Eugene Mussolini proposed exploring strategies to harness the water from volcanoes for beneficial purposes such as crop irrigation. He noted the current water scarcity affecting maize cultivation and emphasized the importance of studying how to utilize the resource effectively.
Floods have consistently ranked as the primary cause of lethal and destructive disasters in Rwanda, as revealed by data shared by Prime Minister Ngirente. Between 2017 and May 2023, floods claimed the lives of 1,289 individuals, while 2,114 others sustained injuries across the country, in addition to other damages incurred.