The Rusumo Hydro Power Plant is a transboundary project traversing over Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi located on the Kagera River on the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, and nearly 25 kilometres downstream of Burundi. Rusomo Falls is also a PIDA Priority Project to which the African Development Bank (AfDB) provided a $4 million grant to the Nile Basin Initiative to technical studies for the transmission lines.

National and Regional Impact of Rusomo Falls.

The project is envisioned to strengthen regional power interconnection and to provide job prospects for more than 500 skilled and non-skilled labour forces from the recipient countries Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. It is forecasted to improve livelihoods of about 7000 households in the beneficiary districts and an additional 188 households directly affected by the projects through Livelihood Restoration Program (LRP) implemented by the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP).

Transbounday Water Management as success for Socio-Environmental Risk Mitigation

Naturally, the development of large scale infrastructure can be to the disadvantage of nature and communities. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that project states in cooperation with regional actors such as River Basin Organisation (RBOs) communicate early in the project preparation stage on socio-environmental risk mitigation. This is exactly what happened during the development of Rusomo Falls via Transboundary Water Management (TWM).
NELSAP as the RBO developed above mentioned livelihood restoration program, which is part of a broader Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) prepared in accordance with the World Bank social safeguard requirements and the AfDB Involuntary Resettlement Policy. Additionally, the RAP, to relocate people in a publicly responsible method and conferring to good international practice, was bolstered by a well-coordinated notification and consultation process of the three project states. Through the notification process, and the ensuing environmental and social assessments, it was decided to alter the original design of a 90MW plant and projected displacement of 90,000 people to an 80 MW hydropower scheme merely displacing about 500 people. This process demonstrated the significance and benefits of engaging a broader range of stakeholders at the national and regional level so as to promote RBOs and to achieve national level buy-in.

The Rusumo Hydro Power Plant has thus far been on track with satisfactory progress. Where there is impending transboundary impact, national standards should still apply to the degree that they correspond with universally established international rules and standards. The respective recipient countries have reported on the positive impacts the development of the project has had thus far, the most noteworthy being the absence of load shedding since December 2015 and the assertion that current power cuts are associated with network issues. It can thus serve as best practice example in mitigating socio-environmental risks in infrastructure development in Africa.

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