Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 71, Issue 4, pp 375–387 | Cite as

Lava flow hazard at Nyiragongo Volcano, DRC

2. Hazard reduction in urban areas
  • Giuseppe D. Chirico
  • Massimiliano Favalli
  • Paolo Papale
  • Enzo Boschi
  • Maria Teresa Pareschi
  • Arthur Mamou-Mani
Resaerch Article


Mt. Nyiragongo is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world for the risk associated with the propagation of lava flows. In 2002 several vents opened along a huge system of fractures, pouring out lava which reached and destroyed a considerable part of Goma, a town of about 500,000 inhabitants on the shore of Lake Kivu. In a companion paper (Favalli et al. in Bull Volcanol, this issue, 2008) we employed numerical simulations of probable lava flow paths to evaluate the lava flow hazard on the flanks of the volcano, including the neighbouring towns of Goma (DRC) and Gisenyi (Rwanda). In this paper we use numerical simulations to investigate the possibility of significantly reducing the lava flow hazard in the city through the construction of protective barriers. These barriers are added to the DEM of the area as additional morphological elements, and their effect is evaluated by repeating numerical simulations with and without the presence of barriers. A parametric study on barrier location, size, shape and orientation led to the identification of barriers which maximize protection while minimizing their impact. This study shows that the highest hazard area corresponding to eastern Goma, which was largely destroyed by lava flows in 2002, cannot be effectively protected from future lava flows towards Lake Kivu and should be abandoned. On the contrary, the rest of the town can be sheltered from lava flows by means of two barriers that deviate or contain the lava within the East Goma sector. A proposal for the future development of the town is formulated, whereby “new” Goma is completely safe from the arrival of lava flows originating from vents outside its boundaries. The proposal minimizes the risk of further destruction in town due to future lava flows.


Lava flow Nyiragongo Volcanic hazard Hazard mitigation Numerical simulations Lava barriers 



This work stems from the international response coordinated by the United Nations to the volcanic and social crisis in the northern Lake Kivu area following the Nyiragongo eruption in January 2002. One of us (PP) was part of the international scientific team who worked on Nyiragongo in the days and months after the eruption. The Italian Dipartimento della Protezione Civile financially supported a previous phase of the investigation which provided the basis for this work. The Nyiragongo barriers project was shortlisted in the Architectural Association Environmental Tectonics Competition 2006 ( and supported a Diploma Unit 16 to one of the authors (A.M.-M.) tutored by Jonas Lundberg [BArch GradDiplDes(AA)] and Steve Hardy [Barch(Dis) March(Dis)]. Comments and suggestions by three anonymous reviewers helped significantly improve the paper. Research results would not have been achieved without the exceptional help, support, competence and friendship of the scientific and technical personnel at the Goma Volcano Observatory.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuseppe D. Chirico
    • 1
  • Massimiliano Favalli
    • 1
  • Paolo Papale
    • 1
  • Enzo Boschi
    • 1
  • Maria Teresa Pareschi
    • 1
  • Arthur Mamou-Mani
    • 2
  1. 1.Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Sezione di PisaPisaItaly
  2. 2.Architectural Association School of ArchitectureLondonUK

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