STIEGLER’S GORGE – THE PATTERN OF MISLEADING THE TANZANIAN PUBLIC CONTINUES
(Posted 22nd October 2014)
Environmentalists concerned over the destructive impact on the core tourism area of the Selous Game Reserve by plans to build a dam and hydroelectric power plant by the Rufiji (River) Basin Development Authority have taken issue with the latest attempts by RUBADA mouthpieces to white- and greenwash the project by peddling untruths, clearly misleading the Tanzanian public similar to other cases where UNESCO World Heritage Sites have in the past come under threat by reckless ‘development plans’.
While RUBADA’s Aloyce Masanja tried to hoodwink the public, claiming that UNESCO had sanctioned plans for the powerplant, did UNESCO categorically deny such approvals were given, with one Paris based source in fact saying that the Selous is now considered a World Heritage Site in Danger, the diplomatic way of telling the world that the Tanzanian government is messing about.
UNESCO last official mention of the project is contained in a published report and extracts from it make for frightening reading as far as the future of the Selous is concerned, not dissimilar to the equally harebrained scheme to build a highway across the Serengeti, attempts to tamper with the Old Stone Town on Unguja / Zanzibar and generally live in a state of ignorance and defiance over a series of projects impacting on already protected areas or areas which require protection like the Lake Natron mud flats but which do not have UNESCO WHS status.
Appreciatesthe State Party’s concurrence with the recommendation of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to include the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
Decidesto inscribe Selous Game Reserve (United Republic of Tanzania) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
Clarify the status of planning and decision-making of the Stiegler’s Gorge Dam project and ensure a comprehensive understanding of the impacts, risks, costs, benefits, and alternatives as a basis for any decision-making regarding the project both in the form of an in-depth EIA and the comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) noted below, taking into account the OUV of the property,
Take advantage of the upcoming updating of the General Management Plan to fully consider the World Heritage status of the property
Reiterates its request to the State Party not to undertake any development activities within Selous Game Reserve and its surrounding areas without prior approval of the World Heritage Committee in accordance with the Operational Guidelines;
Also reiterates its request to the State Party not to engage in any mining activity within the property after exclusion of the Mkuju River Mining site as per Decision 36 COM 8B.43,in line with its established position that mining and oil and gas exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status;
Further requeststhe State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property, including a one-page executive summary and a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, including a timeframe for achieving it, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.
These excerpts belie Masanja’s statement that UNESCO had purportedly approved the project and call into question the truthfulness of any other statements and utterances coming from RUBADA about the project in the past.
Even more disturbing are emerging news, details of which the Tanzanian authorities have been made aware of several months ago already, that the partner in the ill-considered hydro project, Odebrecht of Brazil, which in the face of evidence of corrupt practices continues to be described by RUBADA and other government organs in Tanzania as ‘reputable’, raising doubts over what has to happen to be considered of ill repute in Tanzania. Odebrecht was cited as having paid 23 million US Dollars in bribes to a top official of Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company and it is now a matter of speculation how they have and will conduct business in Tanzania, given such serious ethical, and criminal breaches of conduct back home.
‘If you thought it cannot get any worse, and I make reference to the stubborn insistence by our government over the Lake Natron soda ash plant, among other similar environmental assaults like plans to turn the Coelacanth marine park into a port, they still find ways to get deeper into the hole. It is very sad to see how this government last week celebrated our founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere while trampling his legacy of conservation and environmental protection into the dust. One does not celebrate Nyerere while dancing on his grave but that is exactly what our government does. They have thrown out all those principles for short lived gains, gains which benefit individuals more than the wananchi. Let Kikwete explain why he caused the application for UNESCO World Heritage Status for the Eastern Arc Mountains to be withdrawn. Today logging and mining companies are seeing this as another Eldorado. Is he not the president who ignored all the warning bells sounded over tens of thousands of elephant slaughtered in Tanzania during his 9 year rule so far. It has never been so bad, ever, in our country. Let him explain what happened to Kagesheki’s list of 300 names who need investigating and prosecuting over the blood ivory trade. Nine years ago he was swept into office like no other president before him but he has turned out to be a big disappointment when it comes to conservation and environmental protection. No one is against our country developing and creating infrastructure, creating wealth for our people, but this government has a track record of poor decisions and then trying to defend the indefensible. No wonder they have decided not to sign on to the EAC’s protocol for environment and management of natural resources. They hope they can escape justice from the East African Community Court of Justice but they will still end up in the dock just like with the Serengeti highway’ let a regular conservation source from Arusha off steam when narrating the latest threats to the Selous Game Reserve.
Sources close to AWF and WWF have already signaled their raised concern levels and that these organizations are considering action, while local and regional conservationists have vowed to renew their de-campaigning of Tanzania as a tourism destination should such concerns not be fully addressed and wrong decisions corrected.
Tough days ahead no doubt for RUBADA to explain how they not only misled the public but area also engaged with a company mired in the deep quagmire of corruption back home in Brazil. Watch this space.