DANGERS OF URANIUM MINING DELIBERATELY PLAYED DOWN
Tanzanian officials continue to play down the dangers of the proposed Uranium mining project inside the UNESCOs World Heritage Site Selous Game Reserve, according to some experts consulted almost deliberately endangering the health of local populations for the sole motive of profits. They have been bought, that much is clear, and when they say, like the Commissioner for Energy, that playing with Uranium is safe they are misleading the public for the simple motive of profits. There is a very serious risk of pollution, and the former Soviet Union is a very good example for that, there they are struggling until today with the mess and fall out of those Uranium mines, poisoned water sources and poisoned soil said a regular conservation source from Dar es Salaam while passing on the information overnight. The Tanzanian government has applied to UNESCO to get permission to commence mining in the reserve or else excavate the area earmarked for mining, but as rivers flow through the proposed mining areas into the reserve and then on to the Indian Ocean, fears are growing of contamination of the water with devastating effects for people, wildlife and eventually marine life, with the long term effects not possible to mitigate away. There are however also other areas of the country where Uranium deposits have been found and where the focus of environmental groups has been less until now.
Development partners too are concerned that the portion of revenue coming to the Tanzanian government seems outrageously low, confirming doubts on the value of the deal or else suggesting that the true value will go elsewhere, and your guess here is as good as mine.
Interesting enough were comments attributed to a senior staff of an Uranium exploration company, who was subsequently quoted in the local media warning of lasting liver damage to those drinking water which has been in contact with Uranium with other health problems due to the toxicity not fully explored at this stage.
While government in full mouthed statements heap praise on their policies and regulations, it is often a sad fact that those are trampled upon and discarded when money starts to flow as has often been seen in other sectors across the economy, giving little confidence that it would be any different here. NEMA officials reportedly also decried the low capacity of monitoring and enforcement, suggesting further that government would largely have to rely on data by the mining companies, which could easily be doctored or present it such a way as to suggest minimum risks, many of which would only become apparent in the longer term.
Stakeholders operating into the Selous have also expressed concern over the ongoing negative publicity surrounding Africa largest game reserve, with one, on condition of anonymity saying: We are worried about this controversy. Tourists are easily put off and they can now find on their computers anything you people write and expose. Like your story about Stieglers Gorge has raised a lot of questions overseas and government should come out and make a statement that they will leave the gorge intact and not built a power plant there. The same for mining of Uranium. There are a lot of issues with poaching and government should concentrate on that, to open up the Selous into the distant unexplored places so that more tented camps can be put up, more visitors can come in and sustainable revenue can create jobs and earn us Forex. That is the way forward for us. Spoken with the heart of a true conservationist. Watch this space.