By Sophan Niwamanya
Stakeholders in the tourism sector in Kigezi Sub-region have received the endorsement of Lake Bunyonyi as a Ramsar site with positivity.
Lake Bunyonyi which covers the districts of Kabale and Rubanda in South Western Uganda was on Tuesday approved by the National Ramsar Committee to be designated as a Ramsar site alongside Kaku-Kiyanja wetland system in Lwengo district.
The committee meeting held at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala unanimously endorsed the 2 sites for their unique and special features.
A Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention that was established in 1971 during an intergovernmental environmental treaty by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
According to Eng. Ivan Batuma, the Kigezi Tourism cluster president, recognizing Lake Bunyonyi as a Ramsar site will bring more tourists aboard and thus the sector will thrive.
“We are hopeful that the Lake’s profile will grow and as stakeholders we hope to receive more tourists aboard which is quite exciting for the industry in this region,” said Batuma.
Diaz Drake Owoyesigyire, the Hamuhambo Town council LCV Councillor and a local tour operator said that they also anticipate that the designation of this lake as a ramsar site will boost conservation efforts towards it since it had started experiencing threats due to continued silting.
“We are hopeful that more conservational organizations will come on board and this will be another achievement in our desire to reduce the threats around this Lake,” said Owoyesigyire.
To Wyclef Rushaju, a tour leader at Gorillas and Beyond Safaris and the director of Bweza Gorilla Lodge, Lake Bunyonyi’s international recognition will bring in more specialized visitors there which will improve its ability to attract researchers and unique tourists.
“We hope to see more researchers and birders here. We have only been having one site in Kigezi with an International recognition and that is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which is an International heritage site, now that Bunyonyi is on the way to become a Ramsar site, we are optimistic for the best here,” said Rushaju.
Achilles Byaruhanga, the Nature Uganda Executive director, the lead researcher and campaigner for the Ramsar sites recognition in the Country said that they are left with only one step to attain this milestone.
“Locally we can say that the 2 sites have been recognized as Ramsar sites in Uganda. The next step will be for the government to write to the International Ramsar secretariat that will later designate these sites. It is our pleasure to have accomplished this stage for we last proposed such sites in 2004,” he said.
Byaruhanga says that this development will be fully effective if local governments embrace conservation efforts
Muhammed Sebyala, a Principal economist in the Ministry of Public service admits that the limited funding to conservational efforts by local governments has limited the development of sites that would give a country international recognition.
Joseph Ongol, the Principal Wetlands Officer at the Ministry of Water and Environment says that they will do all it takes to conserve the proposed ramsar sites so as to enjoy the benefits they offer.