Kirehe: Their lives have changed because of Rusumo hydropower project

By Annonciata Byukusenge

Residents near the construction site of the Rusumo Hydropower falls that will provide electricity to the countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania say that the construction of this falls has made them change their attitudes because now they have seen long-term benefits including boost of their economy, infrastructure, schools and Health Centers.

The Regional Rusumo Falls Hydro Electric Project (RRFHEP) implemented by the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) is to benefit the three neighboring countries of Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi at the border of Rusumo in the eastern part of Rwanda, western part of Tanzania and northern part of Burundi.

Young people living near Rusumo waterfalls have been taught skills that will help them to increase their economy, including tailoring/ Photo: NELSAP

“In 2015, local leaders told us that at Rusumo Hydropower falls is going to be built on the border and that the benefits will back to us, we did not understand this because we felt that the benefits are from the government and the citizens will get nothing but the jobs they told us we would gain. At this time, the benefits have started to reach us because the Rusumo project built us a road construction and a bridge that was destroyed by the disaster because of the erosion that had increased.” Said Adam Yusuf who lives near the Rusumo falls in Rusumo village, Kiyanzi cell, Nyamugari sector in Kirehe district.

He added that the bridge that was built by Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) connecting the sectors of Kigarama and Nyamugari, before the activities of Rusumo hydropower falls, the bridge had stopped their circulation to deliver their crop to the Kigarama market. Apart of bridge help them to transport their crop to the Kigarama market, now they have market on Rusumo border and the residents from Tanzania come to the market for shopping.

The entrance of Rusumo cross border market built by NELSAP/ Photo: Annonciata Byukusenge

This waterfalls has improved the relationship between the citizens and the Tanzanians who live around the border because they come to the market to buy our produce and there is no lack of clients, the market has expanded. The advantage is that most of the traders in this market are the beneficiaries of their properties that were damaged by the construction of the waterfalls.

Her neighbor Uwamahoro said that the road provided by Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP), has made the children succeed and count high grade in school because in the rainy season they miss going to school.

“This road was so damaged that sending children to school during the rainy season, as parents were worried because the bridge was damaged and the children had to pass through the water. It was possible that the water would carry them away because this river would full to the top.”

The bridge connecting the sectors of Kigarama and Nyamugari built by NELSAP/ Photo: NELSAP

Laurence Uwamariya, a farmer in Rusumo village, said that they expect to benefit from the Rusumo project to increase their crop production. “Our hope is based on the dams we will have after the activities of building Rusumo Hydropower. We have dams linked with Rusumo waterfalls, will have enough water and will help us in irrigation,” she said.

Patricia Uwingabire, who lives near the Rusumo falls in Nyankurazo cell, Kigarama Sector in Kirehe district, said that the benefits from Rusumo Hydropower falls including the environmental protection.

“The staff from Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) told us that they will provider us seeds of trees in order to protect environment and replant trees destroyed by construction activities.”

The road bult by NELSAP in Kigarama sector/ Photo: NELSAP

Recently our journalist conducted an interview with the director of the Rusumo project in charge of environmental protection, Dr Gaspard Bikwenu, he said that in delivering benefits to the people near the border of Rusumo, they started with priorities and continued to provide them with various infrastructures.

“The bridge connecting Kigarama and Nyamugari sectors was damaged and the people who use this road are doing business. The road we built is 30 kilometers (30km). Apart from the existing road, we built the Kigina Health Center and the Primary School.” Said Dr Bikwenu.

Akagera river near Rusumo waterfalls construction/ Photo: Annonciata Byukusenge

He added that what they prioritize is the interests of the people, apart from being provided with electricity, the people must also have a good life and infrastructure around them and they will continue to help them preserve the environment and make the most of the opportunity they have to live near the border.

Rusumo Project established the $15M Local Area Development Plan to enhance regional social economic development in Busoni and Giteranyi Communes, Ngara District and Kirehe and Ngoma Districts. Each district identified priority investments: access roads, schools, health centres.

Cross border market build by NELSAP at Rusumo Border/ Photo: Annonciata Byukusenge

The construction activities began in 2017 and the project is expected to be completed in 2023.

The project is located at Rusumo Falls, at the common border of Rwanda and Tanzania on River Akagera.

The power production facilities are located entirely on the south side of the bank of the Akagera River in Tanzania, while the substation is located on the northern side of the bank of the river in Rwanda.

NELSAP appealed to the community health center so that they don’t have to travel long distances for treatment/ Photo: NELSAP

The hydropower project, to cost $340 million, is estimated to produce about 80 megawatts of electricity.

It is expected the construction work to be completed in 2023.

Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania are related to the Rusumo Falls Hydropower project and they are included in 13 Nile Basin countries (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, South Sudan, and Cad).

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