Fast Company

Rwanda's Exploding Lake Kivu Could Kill Millions or Power the Country for 100 Years

The lake's lethal combination of methane and carbon dioxide has residents fearing for their lives, but it's also the country's most vital and promising energy source.

Rwanda's Lake Kivu

Rwanda's Lake Kivu is one of the world's three "exploding lakes" and is at serious risk of "overturn," a process whereby huge amounts of carbon dioxide are released from under its surface, suffocating everyone in the surrounding areas. According to the Guardian, Rwandans are now systematically removing the gases from the lake in order to supply massive amounts of electricity to the country for the next 100 years. It's not really a sustainable solution, but what the heck, Rwanda currently only supplies electricity to one in 14 houses.

The Guardian states: "Some scientists say that the ever-expanding volumes of carbon dioxide and methane in Lake Kivu, coupled with the nearby volcanic activity, make a limnic eruption (also referred to as a lake overturn, in which CO2 suddenly erupts from the lake) highly likely at some stage in the future unless degassing occurs. This has now begun with the extraction of some of the 60bn cubic metres of methane in the water."

Two lakes previous overturned in nearby Cameroon, which killed 1,800 people. But Lake Kivu is 2,000 times larger and thus presents a disaster threat of monstrous proportions, given that the area is also more densely populated.

No better description of a double-edged sword--give power to millions or let everyone die?

[Images courtesy Nasa]

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3 Comments

  • desktoparchitecture

    Desktoparchitecture
    If there is thus vast amount of below the surface energy in this lake and the nation is desperately poor then why can not an UN sponcered agency set up a production facility for producing sustainable energy for export. A pipe line could be built to any african nation in need of energy. Supply and dempand between the two would be met as well as the elimination of the eruption of the lake as a hazzard.

  • Aly-Khan Satchu

    Rwanda is seriously innovative and its Share of Voice completely outsized. In a counterintuitive way, The Methane Extraction from the Lake will only add to this.
    Aly-Khan Satchu
    www.rich.co.ke