The second meeting of the Council of Ministers of Environment from DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi has asked members to accelerate the payment of contribution arrears so as to be able to establish a permanent authority for managing, monitoring and regulating water resources exploitation in Kivu Lake and Rusizi River shared by the three countries.
The process to establish the Lake Kivu and River Rusizi Authority started in 2011 under regional cooperation framework but the body is still working under transitional structure.
The two water bodies are shared by the three regional countries.
Officials at the Thursday meeting in Kigali said the functioning of transitional structure has been moving slowly due to financial constraints and therefore clearing arrears and legal processes to ratify to the related convention would help accelerate the move.
The Minister for Natural Resources of Rwanda, Dr Vincent Biruta, who is also president of the council, said once the arrears are paid, staff will resume work and help establish the permanent authority fully.
“Every member had to contribute $280,000 to help the transitional authority to establish a permanent body but only Rwanda managed to pay. We have resolved that countries are going to accelerate the payment of contribution arrears and then put in place the way to sustainably exploit the potential of the shared water resources by protecting the water bodies,” he said.
The Lake Kivu and River Rusizi Authority is expected to ensure quality of the water resources, avoid its depletion or reduction, and monitor activities on Lake Kivu and Rusizi River (exploitation of hydro-electricity, gas and petroleum and fishing).
The authority will protect water bodies, curb water pollution and control the effects from nearby activities such as agriculture, according to officials.
“The authority is crucial to reinforce regional cooperation in terms of water resources management that are shared while looking at pressure from economic actors,” he said.
Biruta assured of the willingness of Rwanda to pay its contributions and ratify the convention.
Dr Amy Ambatobe Nyongolo, the Congolese minister for environment and sustainable development, told the media that his country would soon pay its arrears since the ministry of finance had already put it in its financial plans.
However, the meeting recommended informing Burundi of the need to accelerate payment of its arrears. Burundian officials did not attend.
The recommendations added that the Lake Kivu and River Rusizi Authority has to elaborate a plan of action which will be executed after payment of contributions is completed.
It also recommended accelerating the ratification by members to the related convention while the next meeting will be held in DR Congo by the end of the year.
Remy Mugunga, one of the technical advisors at the Lake Kivu and River Rusizi Authority, said the initiative of setting up the authority is part of Economic Community Great Lakes Region that had recommended generation of revenue from shared natural resources and to support such projects to become sustainable.
“Parliaments are the ones to help approve the project and they are working on it so that countries can ratify the convention,” Muganga said.
He added that Rusizi River already has two hydro-power plants while two studies are being carried out on the feasibility of adding more plants to produce 147 megawatts and 292 megawatts, respectively.
Officials from DR Congo said they have also set up a technical team on the field to conduct a study on possible gas and petroleum exploitation in Kivu Lake.