Lake Kivu

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Lake Kivu forms part of the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Lake Kivu is one of the Great Lakes of Africa. It lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika. It gained notoriety as a place into which were dumped many of the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.


The lake covers a total surface area of some 2700 km² and stands at a height of 1460 metres above sea level. The first European to visit was German Count Adolf von Götzen in 1894. The lake bed sits upon a rift valley that is slowly being pulled apart, causing volcanic activity in the area.

A large island lies in the lake, while settlements on its shore include Bukavu, Kabare, Kalehe, Saké and Goma in Congo and Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu in Rwanda.


Lake Kivu is one of three known exploding lakes, along with Cameroonian Lake Nyos and Lake Moroun, that experiences lake overturns. Analysis of Lake Kivu's geological history indicates a periodic massive biological extinction about every 1,000 years. The trigger for lake overturns in Lake Kivu's case is unknown but periodic volcanic activity is suspected. The gasseous chemical composition of exploding lakes are unique to each lake, in Lake Kivu's case, methane and carbon dioxide due to lake water interaction with a volcano. The risk from a possible Lake Kivu overturn would be catastrophic since approximately 2 million people live in the lake basin, dwarfing other documented lake overturns at Lake Nyos.

Scientists hypothesize that sufficient volcanic interaction with the lake's bottom water that has high gas concentrations would heat water, force the methane out of the water, spark a methane explosion, and trigger a nearly simulatenous release of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then suffocate large numbers of people in the lake basin as the gasses roll off the lake surface. It is also possible that the lake could spawn lake tsunami as gas explodes out of it.

The risk posed by Lake Kivu began to be understood during the analysis of more recent events at Lake Nyos. Lake Kivu's methane was only originally thought to be a cheap natural resource for export and the generation of cheap power. Once the mechanisms that caused lake overturns began to be understood the risk the lake posed to the local population began to be understood.

Scientists installed a vent pipe Lake Nyos to vent bottom water gasses out of its waters, but such a solution for the much larger Lake Kivu would be extremely expensive, running into the millions of dollars. No plan has been initiated to reduce the risk posed by Lake Kivu.

External links

fr:Lac Kivu


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