Water shortage threatens lives of evictees from Akagera river neighbourhoods

Water shortage threatens lives of evictees from Akagera river neighbourhoods

Mohammed Mupenda

By Mohammed M. Mupenda

Rusumo, Transboundary project – Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) expresses water shortage as a big challenge hampering the projects of Rwandans and Tanzanians evicted on both sides of Akagera river to construct Rusumo Hydropower plant.

Speaking to the press at the Rusumo project site on Friday, Mrs. Janinah Mbabazi Gasana, social development and resettlement officer for the Rusumo project, said that preparation has been done and the implementation is going on well.

“All the activities on Rwanda and Tanzania sides were carried out successfully. 53 Rwandan and 103 Tanzanian households were relocated and have been fully compensated,” she said.

She added that there is a challenge of water shortage that is affecting evictees’ projects.

“All implemented projects including poultry are likely to be affected in the long run, due to water shortage in the area,” she stressed during her Powerpoint presentation.

She also revealed that a standard of living survey was carried out and the project found that their standard has been improved to the promising level.

Mr. Peter Jewitt, Project Manager of Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric, said that the project is mainly improving communities’ livelihood unlike before where it could be termed as a burden to the community.

He, however, gave hope to the community saying that stakeholders including the World Bank are trying to sit together to find solutions for the water shortage in the area.

“We are going to discuss and analyze the problem in another way; we have to take time and assess it because people on both borders share the same frustrations,” he promised to the evicted community.

He emphasized that the community needs to benefit from the projects and outlined what will be done, saying that the implementation agencies including the World Bank and all stakeholders have to sit together and see what is good for the people.

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The Rusumo hydroelectric power plant under construction

There is an opportunity in the coming years to look at which kind of project will best support the community and solve the water grid problems.

All hydropower projects have environmental impacts on the community and ecosystems.

“Each of the affected districts will receive five million dollars. 156 affected households have been treated well and all got the resettlement packages,” Jewitt told the press at the site.

Huang Sheng Bao, Project Manager CGOC &JWHC.JV, the Chinese company contracted to execute civil works, cited the challenges during the tour, saying that hiring the Burundians and Rwandans is expensive when it comes to recruitment while in Tanzania.

He added that they will be recruiting more labourers in respective countries very soon.

Madina Irere, a 45-year widow, has acknowledged the work done by NELSAP but she cited water shortage as a challenge to their activities.

“I run my poultry business supported by NELSAP and it has contributed positively to my life with my entire family but the water shortage hampers its development to where I want to take it,” she said.

She stressed that she has to pay Rwf 200 per jerrycan everytime she needs water from the tap and that leads to economic frustration.

She added that they used to have water before, but she does not know what went wrong with the water tap and water disappeared in the area until now.

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The Kagera river on the border between Tanzania and Rwanda, where the new power plant is being constructed

The construction of the power plant is financed by the World Bank with the budget of USD 340 million, while the transmission lines that will evacuate power to the national grid in the three member countries is financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to the tune of USD 121 million.

Construction of the power plant is expected to last three years, until 2020. CGCOC Group Ltd in the joint venture with Jiangxi Water & Hydropower Construction Company Ltd. Chinese companies will execute the civil works/supply and installation of hydro-mechanical equipment, while the Consortium of Andritz Hydro GmbH (Germany) and Andritz  Hydro PVT Ltd (India), will supply and install electro-mechanical equipment for a power plant.

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