Huge layers of plastic waste ride the water of majestic Lake Kivu and block the turbines of the largest hydroelectric plant in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lievin Chizungu, production manager at the dam’s power station said that when the piles of waste that can reach a depth of almost 46 feet (14 metres) get trapped, towns in the area are deprived of power.
The Ruzizi dam is polluted by thousands of bottles, cans and other objects thrown into the lake, which stretches 90 kilometres (56 miles) along the border between DR Congo and Rwanda.
All the waste thrown into Ruzizi River goes to Lake Kivu little by little, because the lake flows towards the river.
One of the four units in the power plant was damaged by debris at the end of January, and it is still down.
The damage caused a deficit of 6.3 megawatts out of 30 total MW that must be produced not only for South Kivu, but also for neighbouring North Kivu province and for Burundi.
Garbage also caused an alternator to fail at the Ruzizi 2 power plant about 25km south of Bukavu. With the damage at both plants, they are 20 MW short. This provoked “many power outages in Bukavu and Uvira”.
According to Chizungu, education is a crucial first step in reducing the lake’s plastic pileup.
“First, we have to teach people that they cannot dump waste in the lake,” he said, adding that, authorities should crackdown on people tossing garbage in the waters.
To combat the plague of plastic waste filling the world’s lakes, oceans and lands, the United Nations launched negotiations in March in Kenya for a global treaty against plastic pollution