90,000 people live in the 7,800 km² Virunga National Park, which is possibly the most biodiverse nature reserve in the world. Alongside gorillas and okapis, there are forest elephants, giraffes, lions, buffaloes and antelopes here too. Their habitat is shrinking because humans are destroying what they need to survive.
A national park in flames
Until recently, people in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had no alternative to using charcoal and firewood for cooking and heating. As a result, they went into the forest and provided for themselves. Very few of them knew about electricity. That is now changing - thanks to hydropower plants. They were built as part of a climate protection project supported by TA Triumph-Adler.
The two run-of-river power plants use the river current to generate electricity. Water is dammed up by a weir in order to exploit the resulting difference in altitude. The current drives a turbine wheel, which in turn propels generators. The efficiency is impressive at 94%.
Electricity from water for 50,000 people
With a combined capacity of 24 megawatts, the hydropower plants now generate electricity for more than 50,000 people. Meanwhile, thousands of households and many newly established small businesses are already connected to the local electricity grid. The project is therefore creating the necessary conditions for economic development. "Without an alternative energy source to charcoal, this forest will be completely cut down in ten years," predicts ClimatePartner, organiser and supervisor of the climate protection project. Thanks to the reliable electricity supply, “alternatives are gradually emerging for the local population to make a living without resorting to illegal overexploitation”.
This is obviously a promising approach because there is a strong local demand, and the project proved to be a success as further hydropower plants are currently being built. This will benefit the local people, the climate - and ultimately the mountain gorillas.