Tanzania conservation breaking news – After the Serengeti it is now the Selous


News just broke that no sooner had the Tanzanian government been compelled by intense global criticism and threats of decampaigning its tourism industry to write to UNESCO and give a written binding undertaking that NO highway would be constructed across the critically important migration paths of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras, that they were set to start yet another battle over the equally UNESCO World Heritage Site protected Selous Game Reserve.

The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Hon. Ezekiel Maige was quoted today in media dispatches after an interview with the BCC’s Swahili Service in Dar es Salaam that uranium mining in the reserve, not by law as strongly protected as  full scale national park, would most definitely go ahead, in the process displaying a lack of understanding of crucial issues which speaks legends.

The Minister claimed that mining would only involve about 1 percent of the parks overall area of nearly 55.000 square kilometres, requiring only minor ‘boundary corrections’ and that the income accrued from mining would help government to pay for the upkeep of the park.

Giving a figure of an estimated value of 200 million US Dollars the selected mining company would make per year from the mine, he then went on to state the Tanzanian government would earn 5 million US Dollars from the project each year, a measly 2 ½ percent ONLY of the estimated proceeds going into the ‘investors’ pockets. Seemingly unaware of this grossly disproportionate figure he went on to claim that uranium mining would not increase radiation levels any more than already registered while the metal was still underground, an astonishing statement for a supposedly well informed and well briefed government minister.

To make matters worse, the Minister then reportedly insisted that as a sovereign nation Tanzania would not require nor seek permission from UNESCO over the mining plans inside the World Heritage Site – a diplomatic affront of the highest order and only explained by having had to eat humble pie a few days earlier when after full mouthed statements to the contrary he had to sign a letter to UNESCO declaring the Serengeti highway project officially dead and buried.

The minister would also not be fully drawn into questions over the fate of the Udendeule Forest adjoining the Selous, giving his hidden message between the lines of answering that this too is a matter for the Tanzanian government to decide and no one else, in other words letting them do as they please with no concern for the environmental impact of interfering with such a crucial ecosystem. Here the full impact of the recent presidential directive of withdrawing the application to UNESCO for recognition of the Eastern Arc Mountains becomes clearer as it portrays the Tanzanian governments intent and purpose to recklessly exploit such resources without having to justify their actions to international bodies like UNESCO as was the case over the Serengeti highway plans which were ultimately brought to a halt by a global network of environmentalists, conservationists, activist and finally the crucially important tourism industry. The latter had threatened to decampaign Tanzania as a tourist destination, in the process also galvanizing local opposition from tourism stakeholders and associations, leaving government in the end no choice but to make a U-turn.

One of the Selous’ main attractions, the Stiegler’s Gorge, is also under threat as plans from the early 70’s to build a hydro electric power plant and dam have recently been dusted off and revived, which has already drawn criticism about the reckless approach by the current Tanzanian government in dealing with their natural resources supporting tourism, and this latest approach vis a vis uranium mining only deepens the suspicion that not all is well within the government’s top echelons and their departure of the commitments made by founder president Julius Mwalimu Nyerere in regard of environmental policies.

A recent article ‘The Corridor of Destruction’ had outlined a number of critical issues, including the plans for a soda ash plant at the breeding grounds of the lesser flamingos of East Africa near Lake Natron, all the way down to the coast where the only 3 year old marine national park near Mwambani is due to be turned into a new deep sea harbour only miles away from an existing facility in Tanga.

UNESCO in the meantime will be assessing this latest assault on one of their globally acclaimed sites and in all likelihood send a team of assessors and inspectors to the reserve to establish what impact a full scale uranium mining operation will likely have on the Selous, in particular the required roads to the mine, the housing and production areas and the site where gravel and rock from the excavation will be stored above ground – especially in regard of radiation exposure to humans, animals and the water sources originating  or crossing the part of the park intended to be set aside for the new mining venture.

What is clear though once again it that Tanzania has learned little if anything from the controversy caused over the Serengeti highway plans and is once again pursuing a confrontational course with conservationists and the green lobby, which they may still rue in time to come should an equally determined opposition be formed against the violation and assault on the Selous as was the case with the Serengeti.

Watch this space.



2 responses to “Tanzania conservation breaking news – After the Serengeti it is now the Selous”

  1. Sorry, Wolfgang, you are wrong when saying that the Tanzanian government made a U turn in the Serengeti road plans! Unfortunately, there was only a slight ‘compromise’ announced after the recent meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, that the Serengeti northern road would go ahead as planned, but would remain gravel and under TANAPA management, well, for the time being…! Interestingly, the Government had always said that the road would be gravel. Thus the only ‘compromise’ is that a larger part at the borders of the Serengeti will also not be tarred (120km instead of 53 within the park), and that TANAPA will be in charge. The bottomline is that the Serengeti ecosystem will be bisected at its most sensitive part, and that upgrading of this road will probably be only a question of time! We’ll see.


    The welcoming news of conservation and halting of the African rich wild animals species along the mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and Masai Mara National Parks has saved a great biodiversity of events that would have altered African Safari and tour loving people just like the flow of ice in the northern hemisphere which has brought challenges to our general survival level. People like Africa with all its african tradition and wild animals. African safaris are the best animal safaris in the world and the idea of tempering with the beauty of wild animals the need to conserve animals is a priority in the peaceful animal world loving people. As a matter of fact this unpredictable and spontaneous natural event has saved the wildebeest migration and made African safaris to be appreciated even more. We human beings of superior brain advancement do have all what it takes to have alternatives without disturbing the flora and fauna. This natural cycle along the Kenya Tanzania border brings harmony and cross border effects which only need to be appreciated not only by the Masai who have been living with the Africa lions, giant elephants and any dangerous animals along the Savannah but also from all those African holiday makers around the world. Its not only the wildebeest which were saved but the African crocodiles, the ape family and the great Big Five as a whole. We only need to blend with nature as nature has its own ways of healing and sustaining itself as it has always done for thousands of years. Great and inspiring animal pictures will continue to be taken, ongoing animal facts and figures and statistics will continue to be obtained, preservation and conservation of African animals will enhance the animal and plant population and above all its just a big WIN! WIN! SITUATION FOR THE GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION and the African World animals and the African Safari Human Species. For all those who mentally physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually contributed made this gigantic move to save animals of Africa, endangered species and the African wild beast migration wonder of the world to these African animals have their own undisturbed natural habitat.