The Selous Game Reserve – to be or not to be?


(Posted 12th July 2015)

Information is trickling in from Tanzania that the Rufiji Basin Development Authority may be pulling out of the hugely controversial hydro-electric power plant project at Stiegler’s Gorge, which has, alongside many other environmental infringements and follies perpetrated in Tanzania, incensed the global conservation community.

Seen as a quintessential part of the Selous’ main tourism zone, with most of the lodges and tented camps located nearby, is Stiegler’s at the very core of tourism activities and the impact of a high dam, and the subsequent flooding behind the dam wall, has been severely critizised as a game changer for the world’s largest wildlife reserve, and not in a good way.

RUBADA’s Director General Dr. Deo Lwezaura was reportedly quoted in the local media last week that the authority may seek a new direction vis a vis their activities and pull out of plans to establish a hydro power plant there, leaving it open if other parts of the Tanzanian government may step in to continue with the project or else it may be shelved.

RUBADA had gone into partnership with Brazilian company Odebrecht, which after a court ruling in Brazil stood exposed for corrupt practices and had its international reputation all but destroyed, not that it made a shred of difference for the Tanzania government which appears happy to do business with corporate convicts.

With the Selous recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site are hopes to turn down the project now focusing on the world body’s review of studies submitted to them, though it is likely that UNESCO may ask for additional information and to have entire sections of the documents submitted reviewed and re-assessed. Last year did the Tanzanian government carve out a nearly 200 square kilometre section of the Selous to allow for the mining of Uranium which, should it go ahead, may affect both people and wildlife through poisoned water sources and toxic dust.

Already hard hit as one of the main killing grounds for elephant, the Selous has according to recent game counts lost as many as 57.000 elephant over the last 8 years, is the future of the reserve now at stake like no other in Tanzania. Only time will tell if the Selous, as we know it and treasure it today, will still be there in a generation or two or if it will be stripped of its status to make way for mining and other commercial activities.