NBTF Paves the Way for Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project: Shared Benefits for Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania

August 6, 2013


  • Rusumo Falls is a successful case where analytical work delineating the benefits of cooperation has led to investment in transboundary resource development
  • NELSAP-CU of the Nile Basin Initiative prepared the project and will lead its implementation
  • Basin-wide acceptance of the project and regional leadership in its development are a testament to the decade long cooperative facilitation by the Nile Basin Trust Fund

KIGALI, August 6, 2013 - The Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project, an 80 MW run-of-the-river hydropower plant on the Kagera River at the boundary between Tanzania and Rwanda, is a flagship project for the Nile Basin – it is the first of the regional projects prepared under the Nile Basin Trust Fund that is moving towards investment and implementation. The project's estimated US$430M cost is to be covered by US$340M in IDA funds towards construction of hydraulic works, and US$90M in AfDB funds towards installation of transmission lines that connect the power plant to the national grids of Rwanda and Burundi, and supply electricity to western Tanzania, which is currently not connected to the national grid.

" Now is the time to address all the challenges that delayed the Rusumo Project and agree on necessary institutional and financing frameworks. Hydropower is a source of green energy at a time when climate change has become a major international concern "

Hon. Coletha U. Ruhamnya

Minister of State in Charge of Energy and Water, Rwanda

The project was designated a high priority by the Strategic Social and Environmental Assessment of Power Development Options prepared by the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program – Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU) in 2005, which evaluated the potential for regional power development in the Nile Equatorial Lakes region. At the time of project preparation, electricity coverage ratios were 2% in Burundi, 5% in Rwanda, and 11% in Tanzania. Hydropower provided a renewable, low-cost alternative. The Rusumo Falls Project will provide a little over 26 MW to each country – which is significant considering it is roughly half the current installed capacity in Burundi and a third of that in Rwanda.

The feasibility studies for the power generation component have compared three alternative development scenarios - the Full Development, Intermediate Development, and Run-of-River  (RoR) - including their technical, economic, social and environmental aspects.

17,500 households would be affected during the construction and operation phases under Full Development, whereas 7,300 households would be affected under Intermediate Development. By comparison, the construction and operation phases of an RoR design were estimated to affect 200 households and 660 households respectively.   Given its location in one of the most heavily inhabited parts of Africa, these numbers have significant implications for the choice of the project. In February 2012, based on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the three options, participating governments selected an RoR design  with a normal operating water level of 1,320 metres above sea level as the preferred development option. This option has minimal environmental and social impacts of the project, and therefore is the least costly in terms to environmental management and resettlement implementation.

A detailed Resettlement Action Plan informed by comprehensive data collection and analysis has been critical in selecting a run-of-the-river design with minimum environmental and social impact. The project has active support from the governments and citizens of the three beneficiary countries as well as from other Nile riparians – a strong testament to the mission and work of the Nile Basin Initiative.

The Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project is a successful case where analytical work delineating the benefits of cooperation has led to investment in transboundary water resource development – this project serves as a model project for CIWA activities.