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Sunset lovers to lose Hippo Point, Dunga beaches to five-star hotel

 Kisumu residents enjoy the sunset at Hippo Point beach on the shores of Lake Victoria. [Michael Mute, Standard]

For holiday lovers and residents, catching a glimpse of the beautiful evening sunset as it disappears into the Lake Victoria horizon from Hippo Point is the climax of any visit to Kisumu.

The sunset, coupled with the snorting of families of hippos that have turned the site their home and birthed the name of the beach, is a sweet experience to behold.

This has been the case for local residents who are unable to afford leisure time in private resorts along the lakefront, thus pitching tent at Hippo Point and Dunga beaches to pass time in the afternoon, weekends and holidays.

After the fall of Lwangni beach in 2019 that was synonymous with mouthwatering fish delicacies and a splendid view of the setting sun, the two beaches have been the only alternative public beaches for residents in Kisumu.

Not even the lack of social amenities like toilets has discouraged people from going to the two beaches every day to pass time.

However, residents may be forced to look for alternative free spaces where they can enjoy a view of the lake following a decision by the county government, in partnership with a private investor, to set up a high-end hotel at both Dunga and Hippo Point beaches.

  Governor Anyang' Nyong'o. [Michael Mute, Standard]

Last week, Governor Anyang' Nyong'o announced that he held discussions with a senior representative from MJ Group, Kenya largest provider of cargo handling services, on plans to develop a five-star hotel at the beaches.

"Our discussions premiered on developing the Kisumu waterfront through a joint venture with Greenmont Ltd and the City Directorate to develop a five-star Marina Hotel at Dunga and Hippo Point through a leasing agreement under the Local Physical Land Use Development Plan," said Nyong'o.

The governor said his administration had already established the Kisumu Lakefront Development Corporation (KLDC), a special-purpose vehicle to drive investments in the lake region.

Although it is still unclear whether the county government will lease out the entire beach to the investors, the plans have already sparked protests from residents opposed to the move.

According to constitutional lawyer Joshua Nyamori and human rights activist Chris Owalla, the plan will rob the city of its only remaining public beach along the shores of the lake.

"It is a heist that commenced in 2011 and whose completion has delayed simply because of the protests that we have mounted whenever the land thieves attempt to take possession of the public utility land," said Nyamori.

He claimed that in 2019, the County Government of Kisumu allocated Sh15 million towards development of Hippo Point.

The money was to be used to fence, build a viewpoint, erect a jetty and construct a swimming pool at the site.

 Kisumu residents enjoy the sunset at Hippo Point beach on the shores of Lake Victoria. [Michael Mute, Standard]

"Under ordinary circumstances, we should have congratulated the county government for the decision to upgrade the only public beach that remains accessible to the ordinary people on the shores of Lake Victoria, especially for watching the sunset and the hippos," he said.

On Saturday, Nyamori said he has a problem with what he claimed is outright theft of the few remaining public utility beaches.

"Hippo Point is a common wealth of the people of Kisumu. When a private developer puts up a five-star hotel there, the ordinary resident of Nyalenda, Obunga, Manyatta, Nyamasaria and Bandani will have no access to the beach front," he added.

Mr Owalla of Community Initiative Action Group said any project being done on a wetland should be guided by land use plans.

"Dunga is a wetland and a very fragile ecosystem that needs to be protected, not destroyed in the name of investment," said Owalla.

Yesterday, a number of residents who frequent the two beaches described the plans to set up a high-end hotel as ill-thought of.

"I don't think it is a wise decision to set up a hotel at the city's only remaining public beach. Most of us will be locked out because you cannot just walk into a public hotel," said Fredrick Okello, a local fisherman.

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