Kigali — Provisional results from the project development studies for the construction of a hydro-electric power dam on the Akagera River along Rwanda's international border with Tanzania indicate that at least 640 households will be affected by the works.
The households to be affected are mostly on the Rwandan side while others are on the Tanzanian side with Burundi showed to be in the clear of any human displacements.
The Rusumo hydroelectric project is a multi-state venture involving Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania and is expected to cost the three countries approximately US$440million to produce 80megga watts of electricity to be shared among the states.
Stake holders of the project met in Kigali for a two day consultative meeting in which experts with an international consultant ARTELIA, presented their provisional findings on the project's Environment and Social Impact Reports (ESIA) as well as proposed Relocation Action Plans (RAP).
Works on the construction of the power dam are expected to start in the first quarter of 2014 (if stake holders approve the provisional findings of the consultant ARTELIA) and are expected to last five years.
Antoine Sendama, the project's regional coordinator told EABW that funds are ready to be released by the main sponsors of the undertaking which is expected to drastically improve the power supply needs of the three countries.
The World Bank Group is expected to fund the main budget of the construction works of the dam in a loan whose repayment responsibility will be shared by the three states involved.
Other funders of the project include the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the support from the Netherlands.
During consultations and discussions of the provisional findings by the experts, stakeholders from the eight-state Nile Basin Initiative called for fast tracking of the project whose original idea was mooted in the mid 1970s.
Experts emphasized the need to resettle and compensate all locals in the affected area before any activities are flagged off.
Claudia Eckhardt, a social and resettlement expert with ARTELIA says up to 244 households will be displaced during the actual construction period of the dam with 111 Rwandan and 133 Tanzanian households. These will lose agricultural land and residency, commercial structures and brick laying grounds for households operating in the marshlands.
Most of those to be affected are within a range of 5km from the project an area which is expected to become permanently flooded after the works with Eckhardt explaining that arable marshland of Ruhuha village in Rwanda and Kabuye sub-village in Tanzania will be flooded rendering the areas un inhabitable.
According to the provisional results, a total of 107.6 ha of arable marshland will be affected in Rwanda rendering negative livelihood impacts on Rwandans living in at least six villages affecting about 351 households of which 43 households (12.3% of the total marshland users) are entirely depending on marshland cultivation, with no land uphill.
The land to be lost represents a reported 31% of the total land available to marshland users in the affected communities of Rwanda.
Most of these locals told researchers that they grow crops in the marchlands such as tomatoes, maize and others in months when the land isn't flooded earning on average between RWF200, 000 and RWF300, 000 per annum.
On the other hand, two villages of Tanzania, Kabuye and Kyenda will lose 79.6 hectares of marshland to the project which is about 26% of the total land cultivated by marshland users in the affected communities of Tanzania and it will affect at least 90 households.
While actual construction will result in the displacement of 244 households on both Rwanda and Tanzania side, operation related works on the dam will affect 441 households (351 in Rwanda and 90 households in Tanzania) mainly losing arable marshland for cultivation but without necessarily being relocated.
A total of 462 Rwandan households will be affected by both construction and operation activities of the hydroelectric dam compared to 223 Tanzanian households.
Both countries have already instituted working resettlement committees that will help undertake compensation activities.
Compensation of all households affected is expected to cost more than US$10million. All households bound to be affected by the development indicated their wish to be compensated with cash though stake holders are understood to be considering options that don't involve cash handouts to avoid possible misuse.
Experts estimate that compensating house owners will range between US$5000 to US$16000 depending on the type of structure.
Those to lose businesses will be entitled to cash compensation of loss of immovable assets at full replacement value plus all necessary transaction costs paid separately as well as compensation of lost income for the period of time required to re-establish the business and restore associated income (about three months).
Similar plans have been proposed by experts on how governments can compensate other categories of people involved.
"We just hope the compensation can be effected before work on the project starts," said ARTELIA's social and resettlement expert Claudia Eckhardt.