Rwanda and DR Congo have signed an agreement aimed at monitoring safe exploitation of methane gas and protection of biodiversity in Lake Kivu.
The deal was signed by Minister for Environment Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, representing the Government of Rwanda, and State Minister in charge of Hydrocarbons Rubens Mikindo Muhima, representing the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Thursday in Kigali.
Biodiversity means a variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat usually considered to be important and desirable.
The agreement considers the potential impact that methane gas exploitation has to produce electricity which must be done by reducing the risk of gas explosion and thus protecting biodiversity.
The methane in Lake Kivu is estimated to have the capacity to generate 700MW of electricity over a period of 55 years.
Rwanda’s share of the total generation potential is about 350 MW, with the rest being the share of DR Congo.
Currently, Contour Global, a US-based company that has a branch in Rwanda generates 26 megawatts.
And in October last year, a public-private partnership project between Shema Power Lake Kivu Limited (SPLK Ltd) and government of Rwanda was launched and it is expected to result in a development of 55 megawatts of methane gas, more than double of what the current investor is producing in Kivu.
According to the signed agreement on Thursday, safe gas exploitation and biodiversity protection will be done by preserving the stability of different layers of Lake Kivu, hence boosting economic growth of the two countries.
The two ministers committed to provide rules for research, exploration and monitoring safe exploration of Lake Kivu gas resources.
Mujawamariya said Lake Kivu has a lot of biodiversity and natural resources that are important to human life.
“Therefore while exploiting the resources in Lake Kivu, the activities must protect the biodiversity in as well since it is important to human life,” she said.
Lake Kivu water is a habitat for fish, especially sardines known as ‘Isambaza’ that improves lives of the fishing community and there are also 113 islands located in Lake Kivu on the part of Rwanda which also accommodates various biodiversity species.
Total fish produced from Lake Kivu was 18,879 tons in 2018, amounting to 70 per cent of total fish production in Rwanda.
However, the fishing community around Lake Kivu has continued to decry the sharp decline in sardine production as this paper recently reported.
Fish farmers say that the decrease in fish stocks, especially sardine production, might have been triggered by illegal fishing and climate change effects.
Asked if other activities such as methane gas exploitation have had an impact on fish production, Mujawamariya said that there is need for research to evaluate the status of threats and activities affecting fish production in Lake Kivu.
She said many projects were signed and implemented in exploiting resources in Lake Kivu but the ministry of environment was not previously involved.
“Now the ministry of environment has to be engaged in agreements related to projects exploiting resources in Lake Kivu to ensure that they do not pose threats to the environment and biodiversity because we are also in charge of protecting all living organisms,” she said.
Mikindo Muhima lauded both Rwanda and DRC’s efforts geared at safe exploitation of methane gas.
He pointed out an agreement signed in 2017 in Bukavu for common exploitation of methane gas in Lake Kivu.
“We need safe exploitation of methane gas in Lake Kivu for sustainable development in the Great Lakes Region in general,” he said.
Amb. Claver Gatete, the Minister for Infrastructure, added that there is an ongoing project with a target to produce cooking gas from methane gas.
“We have engaged a company that might produce liquefied natural gas from methane gas from Lake Kivu. They will supply the gas to big companies and homes. The company is very advanced in research and the project has already started,” he said.
Gasmeth Energy Limited is a locally registered company that has committed to invest over US$400 million to extract methane gas and turn it into liquefied petroleum gas used as fuel for heating appliances, cooking equipment, and vehicles.