Nytimes: The Power Plants That May Save a Park, and Aid a Country
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK, Democratic Republic of Congo — On the verdant savanna of Virunga National Park, a herd of elephants clustered near an umbrella-shaped acacia tree to seek shelter from the blazing morning sun. From a Cessna far above, the giant animals looked like brown-gray miniatures.
Emmanuel de Merode, the director of Virunga National Park, piloted the plane. He wore a Virunga park ranger uniform and had his green beret tucked into the shoulder of his khaki shirt. Mr. de Merode flew over the dazzling 50-mile-long Lake Edward, then descended to a grassy airfield flanked by palm trees.
On this day, the flight was his commute. “It’s the best job in the world,” he said.
Mr. de Merode was visiting a small hydroelectric power plant — built more than four years ago with an investment from the European Union — that has lofty goals. It powers a soap factory, providing jobs and a market for local palm oil. It supplies electricity to homes, reducing the need to illegally chop down Virunga’s trees to make charcoal. Ideally, it will spark entrepreneurship among carpenters, tailors and others whose businesses struggle to exist without electricity.