Nkombo Island inhabitants will have better means to connect to the rest of the country, mainly the districts around Lake Kivu in Western Province, thanks to a new boat that the Government will provide them.
The boat is estimated to cost around $3 million (about Rwf2.7 billion), according to the Ministry of Infrastructure. The island will also get another small feeder boat.
The 29.7 square kilometre island is one of the 18 sectors making up Rusizi District in Western Province. The Island, which is made up of five cells, is home to 18,700 people, Alain Emmanuel Muganga, its executive officer told The New Times.
Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, the Minister of State in charge of Transport in the Ministry of Infrastructure, said that thesmall boat will link the island to the mainland in a safe and comfortable manner.
The bigger boat, Uwihanganye said, will enable to transport vehicles that would be needed on the island while generating income to the community through supporting development initiatives.
“The boat will mainly address safe and reliable Lake Kivu transport in general, particularly connectivity to Nkombo,” he observed.
Uwihanganye said the big boat has capacity of 150 seats, and can carry six vehicles and 10 tonnes of cargo. It has a speed of 23 knots (about 42.6 kilometres per hour), meaning that it can take 4.5 hours to travel from Rusizi to Rubavu.
The small feeder boat has the capacity of 30 seats and has a cargo capacity of three tonnes, the minister said.
Muganga said that the boats will promote socioeconomic cooperation between the Island dwellers and other parts of the country, especially the nearby areas.
He said that the Island community will also benefit from income that will be generated from the big boat.
Currently, he said, the Island was using small wooden boats, but which are equipped with engines.
“Nkombo people largely live by fishing. The boat will help us take our fish produce to markets, and will facilitate cooperation with other areas,” he said.
He indicated that the Island has no ambulance to quickly take patients to health centre available there. As a result, residents resort to carrying patients on stretchers as they walk to the health centre, which takes more time and delays treatment.
As the boat will transport vehicles, he said, their Island would be able to get a car for the first time in history.
“If we get cars at the Island, they can help take patients from different parts of the Island to a health centre for timely healthcare provision,” adding that the cars can facilitate route transport activities such as carrying produce at the Island.
In case of patient transfer to hospital for further treatment, he said, they have to be carried on a stretcher to reach waters, then they use a boat to take the patient to Gihundwe Hospital in Rusizi.
Léoncie Kankindi, the Vice Mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Development in Rusizi District, said that there was lack of boats to transport passengers effectively at Lake Kivu.
“With the new boat, transport is going to be improved, and it can carry both passengers from Rusizi, and other districts along the Kivu Belt,” she said.
Five districts of Western Province namely Rubavu, Rutsiro, Karongi, Nyamasheke and Rusizi straddle the Kivu Belt – the area around Kivu.
Meanwhile, about $27.3 million (Rwf24 billion) was allocated for the construction of four ports at Lake Kivu (on parts of Rusizi, Karongi, Rutsiro and Rubavu).
The four ports, he said, are estimated to handle 6.9 million passengers and 2 million tonnes of cargo every year.
“It is believed that water transport is one of cheapest mode of transport. Ports will enable safe navigation for intra-trade and cross border trade with DRC (the Democratic Republic of the Congo). For tourism, the facilities in addition to the boat, will support the Kivu belt tourism master plan,” Uwihanganye said.