08 Aug

Earlier today, I shared my observations while exploring geographical features found in the Northern Province of Rwanda. At some point, I mentioned that Ntaruka River doesn’t exist anymore. 

About an hour after publishing the piece, I received a message from a curious reader who wanted to know more about the lost river. I had no plans to write a second post today until the said reader reached out. Since I promised him to shed more light on the fate of the mysterious river, I guess I have to keep my word. Before we get to the bottom of the dried-up creek, let me walk you down memory lane. 

I visited the twin lakes of Rohondo and Burera for the first time in 2017. Upon arrival, I hired a boat owned by a local tour operator who, eventually, upgraded his status to an investor. When I returned to the hidden gems three years later, I stayed at a lodging facility he had built.

His name is Gervais Hafashimana, the owner of My Hill Eco Lodge. After dinner, we shared a drink and talked about the attractions he knows like the back of his hand. From this interaction, I gathered information that explains some things.

According to this local investor, who happens to be a knowledgeable researcher, the source of the stream that empties into Lake Burera is Rugezi Swamp. The swamp in question straddles the Rwanda - Uganda border. Before the emergence of the volcanoes, Rugezi River used to flow in a different direction, probably feeding the Congo Basin.

When the Virunga Massif blocked its original path, the watercourse took a detour. Ultimately, two empty valleys were filled in the process that led to the formation of the aforementioned lakes.

The last post highlighted my experiences hiking Mwiko Hill. The hill, rising beyond 8,000 feet above sea level, is located between the two water bodies. During the hike, I was guided by Ingabire Yves, a resident of Burera District’s Gitovu Sector. His account of the formation of the lakes matches Hafashimana's research findings.

After filling the first basin to form Lake Burera, water had to find an outlet. The ensuing channel gave birth to Ntaruka River, which poured into the lower basin and filled it. That’s how Lake Ruhondo was created. Millions of years later, the shortest river I have ever seen was cancelled by the implementation of the Ntaruka hydroelectric power project.

The constructors of the Ntaruka Hydropower Plant blocked the source of Ntaruka River. Then they channeled water through the pipeline designed to spin the turbine, which in turn, activates the generation of electricity. In Rwanda, hydropower contributes more than 50% of total energy output.