June 17, 2024

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Bridging Communities: A Tale of Rwanda’s First Stone Arch Bridge

The stone arch bridge, located in Rwaza Sector, Kabushinge Cell, on the Mukinga River in Musanze District.

The construction of a new arched bridge made of stones in the Musanze district’s Rwaza sector represents an important improvement in local infrastructure as well as benefiting community significantly.

The new bridge, funded by Region Bruxelles Capitale, was constructed in collaboration between the Belgian development agency, Enabel through its Urban Economic Development Initiative (UEDi) and the Musanze District. It spans 5 meters in both width and length and was completed in February 2024, costing Rwf 18.5 million.

This arched bridge made of stones serves as a critical connection for residents, facilitating easier access to main roads and thereby improving mobility for essential services such as schools, health centres, and markets for farmers.

It replaces an old wooden pole bridge regularly washed away by floods, making movements difficult between the main road and surrounding areas and increasing the risk of accidents and isolation. It not only addresses these challenges but also brings a sense of security and resilience to the residents.

Mamady Olivier NDAYISHIMIYE, in charge of road infrastructure in the Musanze district, and the engineer who built this bridge revealed that in constructing this stone-built bridge, they mainly used Made in Rwanda (MiR) materials, and it’s four times less expensive than a regular concrete/cement bridge and emits less CO2 emissions, 70% less than a concrete-built bridge.

He said, “This bridge, due to the way it was built, is made of stones, which is the most important; everywhere we have been connecting with stones, so we have few spaces, and then we have to add cement, but very little so that we create an arch format, which goes like a bow. This allows the CO2 released by the cement to decrease, even as the bridge increases its strength.”

He added that since the bridge cost 18.5 million frw, when the concrete was built, it would be four times more (about 72 million frw). This bridge is a new technology brought by Enabel; it is the first stone arch bridge built in Rwanda.

He continued that when the bridge is in the arch format, the more cars use it or other forces, the stronger it becomes because the stones push each other, unlike if it is built in concrete when there are other forces, it is easy to collapse.

“What causes air pollution is cement. A lot of cement we use is produced in the industry; there is a release of air pollution; cement consumes a lot of water; and there are reactions that take place when it is being built so that these reactions are working to release carbon dioxide, which causes air pollution. So, if we use stones, it helps us a lot in the saving of 70% of CO2 that would be released if we use a concrete bridge,” NDAYISHIMIYE said.

He concluded by saying that in terms of the grant, this bridge will last for more than 50 years in the absence of severe climate change, such as heavy rains or water from different mountains increasing to the extent that it will overflow, which is its specialty because other bridges made of concrete are less than 25 years old.

Clarisse UWANYIRIGIRA, Vice Mayor of Musanze District in charge of economy and development, emphasized that this bridge is one of the proudest projects built in collaboration with Enabel because it has increased security and safety for the people living in the area.

She said, “When people cross a place with one or two trees, they are worried, but now the people are crossing safely.”

Laurent Preud’homme, Head of Cooperation at the Embassy of Belgium in Rwanda, highlighted that cooperation between Rwanda and Belgium has become increasingly easier because Rwanda is a country with strong institutions with a very precise vision and strategy.

He said, “Cooperation between the Government of Rwanda and the Kingdom of Belgium is entirely in line with Rwanda’s priorities. And the most important thing is that what we think is consistent with what the Rwandan authorities wish to do for their population.”

Noel Hagumimana, a resident of Musanze district who lives near this bridge, testified that it has been built well because there are no obstacles to cross. They were living badly during the rainy season; no one could cross to find work that would develop them in other areas.

He said, “There is a market up here called ‘Kadigi’ and those who want to go there pass this bridge to get to the road; there’s Gicuba Center; people go there to shop through this bridge before there were no movements during rainy seasons. And we’re farmers; we use this bridge to go to the other side for farming. Things were not easy when it rained; only after this bridge was completed, we started to cross without worry.”

He added, “We have our children studying in Rwaza, as well as in Musezero; it wasn’t easy to go to school, but now, we don’t have a problem about where our children will pass.”

Moreover, this stone arch bridge was like the first pilot; Enabel will build 10 others like it in the Musanze district and more than 30 in the whole country.

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