Webpage by:
Theresa Kayzar “T.K.”

Impacts - People, Ecomony, Government
Is Lake Kivu a hazard for the DRC and Rwanda?
you be the judge...

The mitigation of hazards and the monitoring of volcanism in the area of Lake Kivu have not been easily implemented in the past. In fact, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been described as perhaps the “worst-case scenario for a city trying to manage a volcano observatory” (Reed, 2002). Recently, years of civil war and disease within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (from 1998-present) have killed more than 2.5 million people, a number that makes a few thousand killed by a volcano seem minor (Democratic..., 2003). However, a turnover in Lake Kivu could fatally harm millions living in both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it would benefit the residents near the lake to learn from studies already done on areas such as Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun (Witze, 2002).

lava flow in town

What would happen to the people?

The main hazards associated with volcanic gases are typically asphyxiation and irritation (to skin, lungs, etc.). Table 1 provides the life threatening levels of exposure to specific volcanic gases. CO2 and CO are the main asphyxiant volcanic gases. At ordinary air temperatures CO2 is one and a half times denser than air causing it to flow into valleys and confined low-lying areas (Baxter et al, 1989). In order for hazard assistance to take place, medical teams offering emergency treatment would have to arrive within hours if they wanted to reduce the loss of life or injury associated with exposure to volcanic gases. In order to do this, teams would have to be trained beforehand for the monitoring of volcanic gases and the treatment of gas casualties (Baxter et al, 1989).

Table 1. Life threatening exposure levels for volcanic gases

Irritant gases










Asphyxiant gases










Table modified from Baxter (1989).




Rwandan ref

Effects on Lake Resources


All actions involving Lake Kivu must also consider the local economy. Goma and Bukavu as well as Gisenyi are important harbors for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda (Democratic…, 2003). In addition, local residents use the lake for its resources. In 2001, Gisenyi Gas and Electric Company became Rwanda’s first independent power producer by utilizing the methane within Lake Kivu (USAID, 2002). Gillnet fishing of Limnothrissa miodon, a small pelagic sardine introduced to the lake in 1958, also provides jobs and protein for natives to the area (Kamingini et al, 1997). Some approach to both the monitoring of Nyiragongo volcano and Lake Kivu that will not disturb these practices needs to be implemented. Above all, the local governments need to be convinced that there is reason to monitor the state of the lake and surrounding volcanoes.

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