Plans to have the Karisimbi Communication Infrastructure Project operational at full capacity are still underway, despite the slow progress that has characterised this undertaking,
Based at the summit of one of the highest peaks of the Virunga Mountains in the Northern Province, Karisimbi project comprises integration of Comesa air space control, climate observatory, broadcasting and cable-car system.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, the project’s coordinator, Dr. Emmanuel Munyangabe said the project was on and the works are in progress despite the fact that the venture was taking ages to materialise.
He allayed public fears that the project could have stalled saying “the government was putting in much effort to see all components that make up the project come into force as envisaged.”
The project aims at enhancing electronic communications and broadcasting services in the country and the region.
“All the four components of the Karisimbi project are on track and have been allocated time frame. We believe the project will be a success in the next few years. We know it has been around for many years, but that doesn’t mean it has stalled,” said Munyangabe.
All the projects have different time limits within which they are to be implemented, and the furthest, according to the official, is to be complete at least by 2017.
For the Broadcasting part of the project, Munyangabe said that presently there is nationwide radio FM and analogue TV transmission from Karisimbi, a 40-meter broadcasting tower.
“Karisimbi radio FM covers the biggest part of the country and the analogue TV covers mainly areas of the Western Province in Rubavu and Nyabihu, as well as some sectors of Musanze district.”
He noted that Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) will undertake the upgrading of Digital Video Broadcasting –Terrestrial (DVB-T) to DVB-T2 by December this year.
According to Innocent Nkurunziza, the technical director of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA), the national broadcaster already has television and radio transmitters at Karisimbi.
“We are using the Karisimbi tower and we have benefited a lot from the project because it has helped in enhancing our broadcasting images and frequency reception to radio users,” he said.
He added that by December they will switch off analogue transmission from Karisimbi and upgrade to digital broadcasting.
The Comesa Air Space Integration Project involves building communications navigation surveillance/air traffic management integrated systems (CNS/ATM), using satellite technology, to enhance safety, reliability and efficiency of air traffic and space within the Comesa region.
Comesa is the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, a regional body that brings together 19 states, including Rwanda.
“Rwanda was mandated by Comesa council of ministers to spearhead the implementation of the project and the process is ongoing despite that fact that decision making process is slow and the recruitment of the project implementation unit is taking longer than it is expected,” Munyangabe said.
In 2011, the government signed an agreement with Comesa to host CNS/ATM for all member states and consequently within the same period, the African Development Bank (AfDB) boosted the project with a grant of $8.6m towards the construction of the air traffic surveillance centre.
“The project manager has been recruited by Comesa in collaboration with AfDB. He has been in Kigali since beginning of June this year while the recruitment of other senior members of the team is on,” he said.
Without divulging the cost of the project, Munyangabe said that the air space regulatory agency will be operational by 2014 and financial clause and or concession agreement will be signed by 2016.
According to Munyangabe, the climate observatory station involves installing a world class climate observatory at the summit of Mt. Karisimbi.
It will provide a region-wide centre for climate data gathering and analysis that will feed into national, regional and global planning activities.
“The project is going on well and the equipment has been installed at Mugogo station and initial climate data is being collected. The station serves as a centre for training, as well as, equipment testing,” he said, adding that the recruitment of trainees was completed and they are now working at the station.
He stated that the station will be shifted to Karisimbi summit by 2016 and the data gathered from Karisimbi station will be analysed by early 2017.
The climate observatory station is temporarily installed at Mugogo station located at the slopes of Karisimbi.
The Cable-Car Project
This project involves installing a cable car to facilitate people especially tourists to access the summit and it is expected to be operational by November 2015.
“The cable car ride will provide a unique tourist product for the region, and help make Rwanda a tourist destination of choice,” said Munyangabe
“A business plan that will determine the viability of the cable-car installation is under-way. We expect to have the plan ready by the end of September 2013. The business plan is being done by a Nepalese firm called Beed Management.”
He said that Leitner a North American company and Doppelmayr, Austrian company both leading cable car manufacturing companies, have submitted their final technical and financial proposals that are being evaluated in the business plan.
Karisimbi project coordinator added: “Commercial viability of the cable project is a big challenge considering its up-front cost of $38m (Rwf25billion).”