Owners of hotels, bars and other facilities in close proximity of Lake Kivu and protected wetlands in Rubavu District have decried a decision that requires them to vacate the premises ahead of scheduled demolitions.
Authorities say several businesses illegally encroached on these protected areas in breach of a requirement of a 50 metre buffer zone from lake shores or other wetlands.
All those concerned have been told to prepare to leave by September 19. Some of them claim they had constructed their hotels and bars before the law was promulgated.
Odette Nyiramongi, who owns a hotel near Lake Kivu, in Rubavu District stressed that she is facing numerous consequences as she constructed her hotel in 2000 before the law was amended in 2010.
“It is a big challenge for us who had built our hotels before the law came into place. We cannot even get permission to renovate them and we do not know when we will be compensated and that is harming our businesses,” she said said.
For Paul Ntezimana, another owner of a bar near Lake Kivu, the district has to be careful when implementing the law because there are many investors who may end up with big losses.
“They have to bear in mind that some of us have invested a lot of money and constructed these premises with the permission of local authorities. We have documents to prove it,” he said.
The exact number of those affected is not known but demolitions for those who put up structures after the law was enacted begins in the next three days.
Jeannine Ndeze, the representative of hotel and bar owners in Rubavu, told The New Times that negotiations between both sides were still on-going and they hoped to reach a win-win result.
Eng. Coletha Ruhamya, Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), told The New Times that those who built their premises illegally on the shores of the wetland should face the consequences.
Rubavu officials called upon those who owned buildings there before the law came into force to get in touch with REMA about getting compensation.
“Building near wetlands is risky, it destroys our ecosystem. If any building is close to the lake, fish and other aquatic animals are immediately affected,” she said