29 November 2009

Rwanda: Lake Kivu Methane Project No Danger to Environment - Report

Kigali — An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study, conducted to identify any environment related dangers that would result from the process of energy extraction from Lake Kivu, indicates that the project will not cause any environmental danger.

"As far as the studies are concerned, the findings are satisfactory. However this does not rule out anything that could happen in the future," pointed out Theobald Mashinga, the Director of Environmental Compliance, Awareness and Cleaner Production at RDB.

The studies which were reviewed and confirmed by the Environment watchdog at RDB, covered a number of environmental aspects likely to be compromised by the 100 megawatt project during the course of extraction. These include the biophysical, the density gradient of the water and biodiversity safety.

"Among the elements we looked at was the biophysical environment and the state of water layers to find out whether the extraction of the gas might intoxicate or affect the level of the water," Mashinga said.

"There is nothing peculiar about the project so far, they have been cooperative and they made the necessary recommendations right from the first report. However, if need arises, other studies will be done in future."

All the gasses to be extracted will be separated and after this, the water will be filtered and compressed to ensure that the safe water will be returned into the lake, to ensure its stability.

The report also shows that the biodiversity will be secured by ContourGlobal's hydro dynamic modelling system. It also shows that a mechanism is in place to bar release of water into the biozone that did not originate from that zone, which addresses earlier fears of danger to the living organisms in the Lake.

It indicated that the zooplanktons which provide food for most of the fish in Lake Kivu will not be affected.

"The biodiversity is will be protected differently, but focus will be put on protection of fish other than a wider biodiversity, because the danger is relatively minimal for many of them," observed the Contourglobal team during their presentation.

Another aspect which has been worked upon is the problem of noise pollution during the construction and extraction process. This has been mitigated through establishment of noise control treatments which have been incorporated into the scheme.

The Kivuwatt energy project is a USD300 million investment located in Kibuye. It was contracted by an American company, Contour Global, to extract methane gas from Lake Kivu.

The project is expected to generate up to 100 megawatts of energy. However, the first phase will involve extraction of 25 megawatts and the second will produce the remaining 75.

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