World Her­itage sta­tus of Tan­za­nia’s Selous park at risk

DAM THE EN­VI­RON­MENT: Govt de­ci­sion to go ahead with 2,100MW project pro­vokes Unesco scru­tiny

The East African - - FRONT PAGE - By ERICK KABEN­DERA Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

Tan­za­nia’s world renowned Selous Game Re­serve could lose its sta­tus as a World Her­itage Site fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to set up the Stiegler’s Gorge power project in the park, a ven­ture that in­volves log­ging and other anti-en­vi­ron­ment activities.

The Eastafrican has learnt that the is­sue of the power project in­side the game re­serve is on the agenda of the 42nd ses­sion of the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee — the or­gan that de­cides on the in­scrip­tion or dele­tion of prop­er­ties on the List of World Her­itage in Danger — to be held in Manama, Bahrain, later this month.

Richard Lo Gi­u­dice, pro­gramme spe­cial­ist at the Unesco World Her­itage Cen­tre, told The Eastafrican that the 2,100MW project will be dis­cussed at the fo­rum, and then Unesco will give its verdict.

“This mat­ter will be brought to the at­ten­tion of the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee dur­ing its 42nd ses­sion in Manama from June 24 to July 4, when it ex­am­ines the state of con­ser­va­tion of Selous Game Re­serve,” Mr Gi­u­dice said in an e-mail re­sponse to The Eastafrican.

The gov­ern­ment has set aside Tsh700 bil­lion ($308 mil­lion), or 41 per cent of the Tsh1.69 tril­lion ($743.6 mil­lion) bud­get in the 2018/19 fis­cal year for the project, which it says is crit­i­cal for the pro­duc­tion of elec­tric­ity to drive its in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion agenda.

De­spite the mount­ing op­po­si­tion by con­ser­va­tion­ists over the po­ten­tial de­struc­tion to the re­serve, the gov­ern­ment is push­ing ahead with the project im­ple­men­ta­tion, with ten­ders for clear­ing of forests al­ready re­ceived by the forestry depart­ment.

The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee com­prises rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 21 State Par­ties to the Con­ven­tion Con­cern­ing the Pro­tec­tion of the World Cul­tural and Nat­u­ral Her­itage elected by the Gen­eral Assem­bly of State Par­ties to the Con­ven­tion.

The World Her­itage Com­mit­tee meet­ing comes as the gov­ern­ment through the Tan­za­nia Forest Ser­vices reviews bids for large-scale log­ging of trees with a vol­ume of 3.5 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres, an area MPS es­ti­mate to be the size of Dar es Salaam.

The Tan­za­nia Forests Ser­vices had in­vited bids for clear­ing of 148,000 hectares of forest land. The ten­der doc­u­ment seen by The Eastafrican shows that the depart­ment is look­ing for el­i­gi­ble com­pa­nies to buy trees distributed into six blocks in Ru­fiji district. Its chief ex­ec­u­tive Prof Dos San­tos Si­layo, con­firmed re­ceiv­ing the bids.

Mr Gi­u­dice said that on May 9, Unesco learnt from “an out­side source” about the pub­li­ca­tion of the ten­der doc­u­ment dated April 25, 2018 re­gard­ing the sale of stand­ing trees within the boundaries of the Selous Game Re­serve World Her­itage prop­erty.

“To date, we have re­ceived no of­fi­cial no­tice of this ten­der process from the gov­ern­ment of Tan­za­nia,” he said.

Tan­za­nia is among the states rep­re­sented at the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee and is ex­pected to send an of­fi­cial to Bahrain. Other African states on the com­mit­tee are An­gola, Burkina Faso, Tu­nisia, Uganda and Zim­babwe.

The Com­mit­tee ex­am­ines re­ports on the state of con­ser­va­tion of in­scribed prop­er­ties and asks state par­ties to take ac­tion when prop­er­ties are not be­ing prop­erly man­aged.

En­vi­ron­men­tal lob­by­ist Asuk­ile Ka­juni wants the gov­ern­ment to con­duct a strate­gic en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment in ac­cor­dance with the En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Act of 2004, to de­ter­mine the pos­si­ble ef­fect of the project on the en­vi­ron­ment.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact As­sess­ment of the Pro­posed Stiegler’s Gorge Hy­dropower Project, a 2009 re­port by Prof Raphael Mwa­lyosi of the Uni­ver­sity of Dar es Salaam’s In­sti­tute of Re­source As­sess­ment, noted that the ef­fect of the hy­dropower project would be ad­verse owing to its dras­tic con­se­quences on the im­me­di­ate and more dis­tant ar­eas.

De­spite agree­ing that the project would pro­duce a sig­nif­i­cant amount of en­ergy, the as­sess­ment re­port in part casts doubt on its so­cioe­co­nomic vi­a­bil­ity.

Pic­ture: File

The Selous Game Re­serve. Tan­za­nia’s move risks it be­ing re­moved from the List of World Her­itage in Danger.

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