Rwanda: Ecosystem Restoration and Sustainable Hydropower Production
Full Case Study (PDF, 179 Kb)
In 2003-04, Rwanda experienced a major electricity—and as a result, economic—crisis. This crisis was triggered by a steep decline in power generation at the Ntaruka hydropower station, attributed to a significant drop in the depth of Lake Bulera, the station’s reservoir. The water loss was precipitated by a combination of factors, including: poor management of the upstream Rugezi Wetlands; degradation of the surrounding Rugezi-Bulera-Ruhondo watershed due to human activity; poor maintenance of the station; and reduced rainfall in recent years.
In response to its energy crisis, Rwanda has sought to restore the degraded watershed by halting on-going drainage activities in the Rugezi Wetlands and banning agricultural and pastoral activities within and along its shores, as well as along the shores of nearby lakes Lakes Bulera and Ruhondo. But this left the region’s poor rural households no longer able to access key resources, jeopardizing their livelihoods. The Government responded with additional agricultural and watershed management measures including: building erosion control structures; planting a bamboo and grass belt around the Rugezi Wetlands; planting trees on surrounding hillsides; distributing improved cookstoves; and promoting both environmentally sound farming practices, and additional income-generating activities such as beekeeping.
Today, the Ntaruka hydropower station has returned to full operational capacity while local livelihoods are, in the main, more secure. The story of Rwanda’s electricity sector demonstrates the importance of integrated watershed management in pursuing energy security in a changing climate.
About the Authors:
Hilary Hove is a Project Officer with the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Climate Change and Energy Program. Her work involves research and project management responsibilities within both the mitigation and adaptation streams of the program. Current activities include research on nationally appropriate mitigation actions in developing countries, adaptation best-practices, and low-carbon development planning. Prior to joining IISD, Hilary worked as a Policy Analyst with the Federal Government of Canada, working on Canada-U.S. and international climate change policy. Hilary holds a Master of Arts from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from McGill University.
Jo-Ellen Parry is the Program Manager, Climate Change and Energy, at the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Drawing on her experience and broad knowledge of climate change, natural resource management and community development, her recent research and project management work has focused on adaptation to the effects of climate change, giving particular attention to issues and responses in developing countries. This includes exploring ways in which to integrate adaptation into development processes at the national and community level, with a focus on adaptation action in Africa. Previously she has undertaken research on how adaptation to climate change might be addressed within a future international agreement on climate change under the UNFCCC. Within Canada, Ms. Parry undertakes selected policy research for the Manitoba government to foster efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change in this province. Prior to joining IISD, she held several research positions with various academic, NGO and private organizations. She holds a Master of Environmental Studies degree from York University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Manitoba.
Nelson Lujara is an Energy Expert in the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA) of the Republic of Rwanda. He holds a D.Eng (RAU-South Africa), M.Eng (McGill-Canada) and B.Sc (Eng) from the University of Dar Es Salaam (UDSM) in Tanzania, all in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. A seasoned academic and professional engineer, Dr. Lujara worked for the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) from 2000-2006, where he rose to the rank of Associate Professor and held the positions of Dean of the Faculty of Technology, Director of the Centre for Innovations and Technology Transfer and Vice-Rector in charge of Academic Affairs. Prior to joining KIST, he was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering of the UDSM. Dr. Lujara has more than 40 publications in the areas of renewable energy, power electronics, climate change and higher education.
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