In the next six months, Africa’s oldest reserve, Virunga National Park and neighbouring towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo threatened by armed groups and oil prospectors will soon have a hydroelectric power project completed producing 12.6 megawatts of electric power to residents.
Before the project began in December 2013, villagers in the region around the park have anticipated high hopes of sustainable development projects such as energy, seeking for solutions to end the need of burning charcoal.
The project was launched by the 2008 Virunaga Alliance that instigates sustainable development techniques designed to help some four million residents around the reserve. Launched in December, the project took place a month after DRC soldiers supported by UN troops defeated rebels of the Movemement of March 23 that seized control in the area, says a report.
To date, the Democratic Republic of Congo has had petroleum, coal, natural gas reserves and rivers with many investors aspiring to tap into the country’s hydroelectric power generating potential that has a capacity of producing 100,000 megawatts of power. Some dams such as the Inga Dam have a potential capacity to generate at least 40,000 megawatts of electric power say reports. However, due to underlying challenges that the political arena faces, investors have looked elsewhere.
Nevertheless, for the upcoming project blossoming around the ancient reserve, the Virunga Alliance consisting of park authorities, civil society groups and members of the local community will be funded by a variety of organisations such as the European Union and the private US charity Howard G. Buffet Foundation that aims to improve living conditions in Africa. It has aimed for investment worth $150 million USD.
This hydroelectric project touches on energy, one of the four main sectors that the Alliance intends to promote sustainability in, in addition to fisheries, tourism and agro-industry. While many associate the Virunga National Park with excotic mountain gorillas, open savannah, lakes, volcanic mountains, the alliance also wants to promote tourism in the area.
Once completed, the project will draw water from Rutshuru river to power a 12.6 megawatts hydroelectric station station which by 2015 would supply power to at least 140,000 residents in Matebe, Goma and Beni areas, a few kilometres away from the park.