President Kikwete’s World Environment Day speech raises eyebrows over its sincerity

President Kikwetes address on the occasion of the World Environment Day has raised more than a few eyebrows amongst the conservation fraternity, when on Tuesday this week he was quoted to have said: If we dont take remedial measures to conserve the environment, our lives and welfare will be in danger before adding we are our own worst enemies and God is not to blame for this as he referred to environmental degradation now widespread in Tanzania.
The speech prompted a flurry of comments and mails to this correspondent, not a single one failing to point to a previous article The Corridor of Destruction which refers in a broader context to the planned assaults on key bio-diversity hotspots in Tanzania between the town of Musoma at Lake Victoria to the town of Tanga on the Indian Ocean. In the article various dots were connected to show how extensive the aggressive nature of development and progress had become vis a vis national parks, ecosystems and forests. A rail project from Tanga to Musoma, a new harbour being planned in the middle of the Coelacanth marine national park, a highway across the most crucial migration routes of the Serengeti, the Lake Natron soda ash plant, the withdrawals of the Eastern Arc Mountains from recognition as a World Heritage Site to make the life of robber barons scheming for minerals and timber easier to accomplish, plans for Uranium mining in the Selous and the damning of the Rufiji River at Stieglers Gorge, affecting a very wide area in the Selous in the most intensely used tourism zone of the reserve have all been promoted and aggressively pursued by the government of President Kikwete, considerably lessening the impact of his address on Tuesday vis a vis his own personal commitment to environmental protection. Said one regular source in response: It would be a comedy if it were not so tragic. The president is asking development partners to support Tanzania in preventing desertification and yet his own government simply tramples on all which is dear to our conservation fraternity. Illegal logging is a cancer which has only increased of late and he asks for money for reforestation instead of cracking down on the wood poachers. Big game poaching goes on unabated as the WWF report last week clarified to the horror of conservationists and the promised countermeasures have not taken off at all. The various projects he promotes so keenly are all globally condemned for their recklessness and until Maige was sacked last month he insulted UNESCO time and again with misleading statements on the highway and by calling them inconsequential. There is a method and strategy behind all of this and we are not going to believe that he meant it seriously unless he lets go of some of these controversial issues and seeks consensus and broader agreement. Germany and the World Bank are ready to finance a southern road routing around the Serengeti which would serve a lot more people but there the entire thoughtline is exposed for the fraud it is. The planned route across the Serengeti is to serve mining interests between the Serengeti and Lake Vicoria, the Lake Natron soda ash plant too, so let us stop pretend that road is built for the people of Tanzania when it is for foreign mining giants. Yet, that offer has not been taken up as his government under his guidance clings on to the present Serengeti highway routing. Once it is built, promises or not, it will sooner or later be tarmacked, that is sure because the traffic projections on that road, compiled by government, are just showing how the numbers of cars will grow from a few hundred a day to thousands a day.
Controversy then instead of unity behind the common goal of environmental protection and the sustainable use of resources, and it comes as no surprise for those in the know of what is truly happening vis a vis conservation in Tanzania in recent years. Watch this space as this long running saga continues.