Maintenance of Hydropower Potential in Rwanda Through Ecosystem Restoration

By Jo-Ellen Parry, Hilary Hove, Nelson Lujara on June 14, 2011

Secure energy access through hydroelectric power production is critical to Rwanda's efforts to achieve its economic development and poverty reduction goals.

However, the country's reliance on hydropower production also leaves it vulnerable to changing hydrological conditions potentially caused by a variety of factors. This vulnerability was demonstrated in the mid-2000s when Rwanda experienced an energy crisis that adversely affected its development prospects. This crisis was spurred in large measure by a steep decline in reservoir water levels at two of the country's largest hydropower stations, leading to a significant drop in electricity production. This decline in water levels was precipitated by a combination of factors, including poor management of an upstream wetland, degradation of the surrounding watershed due to human activity, poor maintenance of the station and reduced precipitation in the preceding years.

In response to this crisis, the Government of Rwanda sought to restore the degraded watershed through a combination of actions at the policy and field levels. It also spurred Rwanda to diversify its energy portfolio with support from the private sector. This case study discusses the actions that were taken and their impact on rural livelihoods and the sustainability of the country's electricity sector. It demonstrates the need for diverse approaches to addressing complex problems and, in particular, the importance of integrated watershed management in promoting energy security and helping to reduce vulnerability to future climate change.

The case study Maintenance of Hydropower Potential in Rwanda Through Ecosystem Restoration was prepared for and published in the 2010-2011 World Resources Report.

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WRI, 2011