Quick Overview of the Rufiji River in Tanzania

Quick Overview of the Rufiji River in Tanzania

·         Location Tanzania
·         Primary Source The Great Ruaha River – Tanzania
·         Secondary Source The Kilombero River – Tanzania
·         Third Source The Luwegu River -Tanzania
·         Mouth Indian Ocean
·         Coordinates 7°46′26″S 39°21′50″E

7°46′26″S 39°21′50″E

·         Basin Size 177,429 sq km

The joining of the Luwegu and Kilombero rivers formed the Rufiji River. It lies wholly within Tanzania and runs for about 600 km. The river’s source is in the southwest of Tanzania, while its mouth is situated across the Mafia Channel on the opposite of Mafia Island in the Indian Ocean. The main branch of the Rufiji River is the Great Ruaha River which can be navigated for about 100 km.

The Rufiji River is about 200 km from Dar es Salaam to the south, and its mouth contains eastern Africa’s greatest mangrove forest.

SMS Königsberg anchored at the Dar es salaam port during colonial times
SMS Königsberg anchored at the Dar es salaam port during colonial times

History of the Rufiji River

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describes a branch of olden sea paths in the 1st century CE that led to East Africa’s coast. These routes are referred to as “Azania” by Romans and Greeks and likely the Chinese in the 3rd century. These paths stretched as far as Rhapta (the known port to the Romans), which was likely situated in the mouth of the modern-day Tanzanian Rufiji River.

Between October 1914 and July 1915, the Rufiji river mouth was an extended naval operation scene while World War I took place. The Royal Navy used this as an attempt to neutralize and then destroy the German Konigsberg cruiser. They later succeeded.

Rufiji River Basin

The Rufiji River’s drainage basin is 177,429 sq km.

The Rufiji River Drainage Area
River Area
km2
Area Run-off
Great Ruaha 83,970 47% 15%
Kilombero 39,990 23% 62%
Luwegu 26,300 15% 18%
Rufiji (lower river) 27,160 15% 5%
Total 177,429 100% 100%

Hydroelectric Project

John Magufuli, the former Tanzanian president, approved a plan to build a controversial hydroelectric power dam and station. This construction was approved to take place on the Rufiji river at Stiegler Gorge.

It is estimated that this station at the Rufiji river will produce 2,100 megawatts of electricity. This number is three times more than what the country’s existing hydropower capacity is.

The dam’s construction began on the 26th of July 2019 and should be completed by 2022.

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