An African Adventure – DRC 2019

Working in Africa requires a special mindset, an understanding of Africa’s unique circumstances and challenges and a drive to keep moving forward and getting the job done. Over 50 years of working in Africa, has resulted in many testimonies to this, ranging from site investigations in a UNIMOG, encounters with wildlife (some closer than anticipated), landmines, phones falling out of helicopters, some serious sunburn and a vicious leg-hold animal trap have developed and shaped our character as a company. The latest adventure that will be repeated from time to time within the corridors of MBB belongs to Jon Kirkman, an Engineer at MBB Pietermaritzburg. Jon shares his tale below.

MBB (PMB) was recently involved in an interesting feasibility study looking at the installation of a medium sized hydroelectric power station in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In December 2019, Jon accompanied Dave Still, of Partners in Development (PID), in conducting a site visit to gain first-hand knowledge of local conditions, measure river flow and install a gauging station to measure river level.

Jon says, “the trip got off to a bad start when our flight out of JHB was postponed, causing us to miss a connecting flight. We finally arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, to find that none of our checked baggage had arrived. This included several vital items of equipment. We ground-transferred from Kigali to Goma (DRC), arriving at Goma just in time to see our charter flight to the site taking off. Disturbingly this charter company had had a crash the previous week in which 28 people were killed.

After spending two days in Goma waiting for the next flight and for (most of) our luggage to catch up with us, we finally made it onto a plane and to the site. The real work of the trip then began. This included:

  1. Carrying a canoe down a 1.5 km jungle path to the river.
  2. Paddling up and down stream as far as feasible to examine potential river gauging sites.
  3. Selection of a gauging site and installing a long-term river depth monitoring station.
  4. River depth soundings.
  5. River flow velocity measurements.

This involved three days of work on the river as well as about a week of data processing and report writing. Despite the time and equipment constraints imposed by the longer than expected trip and still missing item of luggage, we managed to complete all of the necessary work and install the monitoring equipment. The river gauging station is collecting useful data which is sent to us on a monthly basis for use in calibrating a hydrological model of the area. The preliminary hydrological indications are that the hydroelectric power station is very feasible. “

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)