Fear of landslides returns for thousands in high risk areas

Thursday November 18 2021
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Projects that had been initiated to minimize the impacts of heavy rains and floods, especially in Kigali are either incomplete or stuck. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

By Ange Iliza

Thousands of families still living in high-risk zones are staring at amplified floods and landslides this coming rainy season as stormwater management projects remain incomplete.

The Rwanda Meteorology Agency predictions show that the country will experience heavy rains this month with volumes expected to reach up to 250 millimetres.

Projects that had been initiated to minimise the impacts of heavy rains and floods, especially in Kigali are either incomplete or stalled.

This poses an imminent threat to over 40,000 families that have not yet been evacuated from high-risk zones.

For example, the first Muhazi dyke that was over 20 years old had been rehabilitated regularly until May 2020.

The Rwanda Water Resources Board decided to build a new $3 million dyke on Muhazi Lake early this year. It has not been completed yet.


In the meantime, with heavy rains coming if the dyke breaks, it has the potential of flooding Nyabugogo area, which is a commercial hub in Kigali, and may cause loss of lives and significant damage to property.

City of Kigali Vice-Mayor in charge of Urbanisation and Infrastructure Merard Mpabwanamaguru told Rwanda Today they “are in the process of having a city stormwater management plan” before completing some water management projects. He did not disclose further details about the timelines and costs involved.

Incomplete projects

Incomplete stormwater management projects are not only limited to Kigali. The Sebeya Catchment that is shared between Rubavu, Rutsiro, Nyabihu, and Ngororero districts remains incomplete to date.

With the Rwanda Meteorology Agency warning of heavy rains, thousands are exposed to risks, including death.

In 2019, Rwanda Housing Authority reported that 48,000 families were stuck in high-risk zones; 13,000 of these were in Kigali. Since then, less than 10,000 families have been evacuated.

The risk does not only face residents in high-risk zones. Some families with poor roof water harvesting methods and weak roofs are at risk as well.

The heavy rains do not only put lives, crops, and infrastructure at risk but also impair the ongoing construction of water management projects.

“One of the biggest challenges we face while constructing dykes, culverts, and dams in a rainy season is that they either stall or get destroyed,” said Davis Bugingo, Flood Management, and Water Storage Division Manager at Rwanda Water Resources Board.

Mr Bugingo added that even though some projects such as level rising of roads and constructing culverts and drainage channels have been completed, the levels of rains received in Rwanda keep rising over the years and may exceed predictions due to climate change.

Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains had cost Rwanda over 380 lives since 2018. Over 21,600 houses and over 23,940ha of crops have been destroyed, according to the Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management data.