UNESCO DECISOIN ON SELOUS MINING DUE NEXT MONTH
A periodic source close to UNESCO in Paris has confirmed that the Tanzanian government was undertaking a last minute goodwill initiative to lobby UNESCO ahead of the expected decision over the application to permit Uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was not lost on UNESCO decision makers that the former tourism minister made very negative, derogatory remarks about the organization, when he last year called them an inconsequential entity. It was also not lost on them that he wrote a letter assuring them about no highway would be built across the Serengeti and within days publicly declared the project would go ahead anyway. Many politicians in Tanzania have voiced that same determination, so was UNESCO misled with the letter to gain time? Only this week did a senior administration official for the Arusha region declare the soda ash project would also still go ahead and the planned road across the Serengeti is also for that project. Feeding officials of UNESCO and decision makers with lunches and private dinners is one thing and the Tanzanian officials are trying hard but their credibility is really shaky. For that country there are too many things happening to or around UNESCO WHS locations. Serengeti, Selous where in fact they have not even applied about the planned power plant, the Stone Town in Zanzibar where UNESCO is following efforts to have the building or zoning code changed. They are making a brave effort but this will not influence the decision makers because they look at facts, at evidence they collect themselves, at the impact of mining in a reserve and the pollution which will extend into the water sources. A decision is due next month and we will be in touch to discuss the outcome then did the source communicate overnight following several days of mail exchanges on the subject.
Plans for Uranium mining, within Tanzania belittled and the risks made seen insignificant by officials, met with stiff resistance by the global conservation community and hasty plans to then change the boundaries of the Selous Game Reserve were floated, to carve out the mining areas, said to be about 1 percent in size of the entire reserve, to circumnavigate the need for approvals. Experts however say that this will not solve the principle problem of pollution and once poisonous substances have entered the water table, and more important the streams flowing through the Selous towards the Indian Ocean, downstream pollution will sooner or later have a significant impact on the flora and fauna of the reserve.
What is really under the spotlight when the UNESCO officials meet next month is Tanzania as a country, our commitment to conservation and the many lies officials have told until now. They will look at us if we are reliable partners in conservation and will uphold commitments or otherwise break those when it suits a few individuals who stand to gain massively. They are misleading Tanzanians that the country will benefit but the financial returns from the mining for instance are really minimal in the bigger picture. Tourism can generate sustainable income for generations upon generations. Mining will extract a resource, finish it and then leave a poisonous hole in the ground. We will be judged, and other related issues, like the countrys stubborn insistence to apply again to CITES to sell ivory on the open market will in the back of their minds also feature. The conservation lobby feels aggrieved by Tanzania. People around the world rally to raise funds, pay for conservation and research projects and then they are told they are a fifth column, they are enemies of progress and development and enemies of the Tanzanian people. You cannot have it both ways. Conservationists abroad speak out because they can while our own internal dissent is being stifled and we all know what government is capable of to deal with internal opposition an Arusha based conservation source added to the topic.
Tanzanias deputy minister for natural resources and tourism, only appointed to this office two weeks ago, is reportedly in Paris to lead the lobbying efforts when he hosted a number of Ambassadors for a formal luncheon a few days ago before continuing one on one efforts according to reports.
However, these efforts were not helped at all when in a related development the Arusha Regional Commissioner was widely quoted to have called the conservation and green lobby names over their opposition to the planned soda ash factory at Lake Natron, where the only habitat for breeding of the millions of flamingos of East Africa exists. He all but accused them to be allies of Kenya, where soda ash mining at Lake Magadi has been ongoing since before independence, suggesting that they were merely stooges to protect Kenyas ability to produce and sell soda ash while keeping Tanzanians rooted in poverty. However, there are no flamingo breeding grounds in or near Magadi, a fact conveniently forgotten or deliberately concealed by Mr. Mulongo in his outburst.
It could also be established that a further and more detailed environmental and social impact study has never been submitted to NEMC, making any progress in the project unlikely, as even TATA, the initial project promoters, puled away from it some years ago when it became clear that this would cause huge controversy and likely impact on their global standing, should they become a willing party to trample on environmental protection on such a scale.
Other government officials, like the Director of Environment Dr. Julius Ningu, were however quoted in a more sober approach, acknowledging the crucial importance of the Lake Natron lake flats for flamingo breeding, vowing to protect such resources at all cost, Government at loggerhead within and with the outside world it seems, as the controversies over the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of Tanzanias wildlife heritage rages on. Watch this space.
UNESCO decision on Uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve due next month
UNESCO DECISOIN ON SELOUS MINING DUE NEXT MONTH