Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Keeping an eye on Congolese volcanoes

The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) lies in the shadow of deadly volcanoes but political insecurity and a chronic lack of funding are hampering research into the risks they pose.

The province of North Kivu is home to two active volcanoes, Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira. The latter erupted last month (January) and, while no one was badly injured, lava flows polluted rainwater collected for drinking and the incidence of diarrhoea and eye disease increased.

"Goma faces the highest risk any city in the world could face," says Darion Tedesco, coordinator of a UN project assessing volcanic hazards in the DRC. He explained that, as well as the damage from volcanoes erupting, there are emissions of gas from the volcanic fractures, and acid rain.

The city is also trapped in a region riddled with conflict, forcing experts to monitor the volcanoes from helicopters.

Goma's volcano observatory is in dire straits. Although it has some equipment it does not have the funds to conduct a tomography — slice by slice imaging of the area beneath the volcano — to locate the magma reservoirs or to fly out scientists to conduct such a study. It also cannot afford to develop a proper early-warning alert.

"The problem is that we are not getting enough support and funding," says Tedesco. "In January, all activity started without any specific warning, without any detectable precursor. This tells us the magma was already there waiting to get out. It could happen again."

Link to full article in IRIN