LAKE KIVU ISLANDS SURVEY MAY HOLD KEY TO FUTURE CONSERVATION USE
(Lake Kivu, as seen from the Bumba Base Camp along the Congo Nile Trail with Napoleon Island in the centre dominating the view )
Several dozen of the scenic islands, which dot Lake Kivu in Rwandan waters, will be surveyed in coming months to determine which ones can be used for human settlement and which should remain unpopulated to be used for tourism and conservation purposes in the future. It was learned that the Rwandan government was particularly keen to preserve such islands with significant forest and tree cover in line with general policy to increase forests by 2020 again to 30 percent of the land.
Closely involved in the survey is notably the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Department, which would be ideally suited to the develop and manage islands set aside as protected areas and create, possibly in private public partnership additional facilities able to attract foreign tourists who come for fishing, boating and birdwatching, or simply to relax in a hammock as this correspondent does on Amahoro Island off the shores near Kibuye. This island has already been set aside as a privately owned tourism resort island and more such development plans exist according to personal findings made when on location in late November of 2011.
(This author seen hammocking on Amahoro Island, Lake Kivu, part of the Congo Nile Trail experience)
While tourism operators and conservation groups see opportunities arising from the planned surveying, residents living or farming on the various islands were reportedly anxious to find out more about the exercise, fearful they might have to leave their land and be resettled, should islands be found to meet conservation or tourism standards and where forests demand protection. Said a regular source from Kigali: In Rwanda such things are done according to law. From what I know none of these islands are presently declared protected areas although it may be found necessary to do so in the future. There is a due process in place, like we have seen some years ago with Gishwati Forests where encroachers were resettled and sensitized about the importance of restoring forest cover there. For now it is a mapping and surveying which is being done and when the results are out, which can take months, government will study the results. No action is ever taken here without consulting those who would be affected. Tourism is keen to see more attractions, more protected areas and RFB has a lake cruiser from Gisenyi which can take tourists along the lake shores to Kibuye and further. Establishing bird watching islands and conservation islands on that route will give tourists more to see and the facilities needed will create investment and jobs.
Clearly Rwanda is not done by far diversifying in the tourism sector with undoubtedly more news emerging as time goes on. Watch this space for regular updates from The Land of a Thousand Hills.