CHINA READY TO FINANCE NEW MWAMBANI PORT INSIDE COELACANTH MARINE PARK
Emerging information that China has reportedly stepped up to finance the construction of a new port at Mwambani, instead of rehabilitating and enlarging the existing and grossly underutilized Tanga port, have shaken Tanzanias conservation fraternity afresh. This has happened only days after learning that UNESCO had cleared the way for the Tanzanian government to excise a 200 square kilometre area from the Selous Game Reserve to begin highly toxic Uranium mining. That revelation was followed by a double whammy for the Selous when the Rufiji Basin Development Authority then signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Brazils Odebrecht to develop a hydro electric power plant and dam at the Stieglers Gorge in the Selous most intensely used tourism area, putting the future of the Selous in some serious doubt.
The financing commitment by China is also expected to subsequently pave the way for the financing of the planned railway from Mwambani to the Lake Victoria town of Musoma, running through what this correspondent has named The Corridor of Destruction which could very well inspite of verbal assurances to the contrary run across the Lake Natron flats, East Africas sole breeding ground for the flamingos and across the Serengeti, as the most direct route would suggest, if for nothing else but cost reasons.
With Tanzanias court system tainted by suggestions of easily yielding to political pressure, the remaining hope to stop this project is now vested in conservation NGOs from the region to file a case before the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, which is already dealing with the Serengeti Highway case. Cases by afflicted residents near Mwambani are said to be also pending before local courts but equally, as alleged intimidation against the plaintiffs persists, this too may find its way into the EACJ system.
According to several sources will the construction, once the finance packages are agreed between the two governments, start still within 2012 or latest by early next year and be undertaken by Chinese state construction companies. Those are notorious for not creating employment for local Tanzanians but import all their staff, even for the most menial jobs, from China to retain, as elsewhere, the fullest control over such projects. The same sources have also alleged that no EIA has been undertaken, or if one has been produced it has not been published and opened up to scrutiny by stakeholders or the conservation fraternity as existing law requires, raising legitimate questions why Tanzanias own regulations and legal requirements in such cases are habitually brushed aside if not trampled upon with impunity.
Said a regular source from Arusha, who is close to the court action at the EACJ over the Serengeti highway on condition of strictest anonymity: The information you now have is quite reliably because it comes from within by people who are not comfortable about the way things are done. We hope, if the project really goes ahead, to file for an injunction directly in Arusha at the East African Court of Justice based on what seems to be a systematical violation of existing rules and regulations over mandatory EIAs and other aspects. We are also monitoring the plight of the affected population around Mwambani and what government intends to do with them. There is a hidden tragedy unfolding for people who for ages lived their life there as fishermen and they cannot be displaced and told to be farmers overnight. It is a recipe for immense human suffering and even though the Tanzanian media have been silenced over such developments we shall get the news out.
And yours truly as always is happy to facilitate this and trigger that smallest of stones, like with the publication in early 2010 of the Tanzanian government’s plans to build a highway across the Serengeti, which turns eventually in a mighty avalanche of opposition and eventually forced a review and modification of plans as well as opting for a different location for a new port. Watch this space where the environment has a voice and has its say.