TANZANIAS CORRIDOR OF DESTRUCTION SET TO EXTEND TO UGANDA TOO
The environmental assaults on many fronts in Tanzania, often written about here and described as The Corridor of Destruction in previous feature articles, now seems to come home to roost to Uganda too, according to regular green sources in Kampala.
Disquieting reports are emerging from environmental watch dogs in Uganda that the planned construction of a new railway line from Tanga where Tanzania intends to build a new deep sea harbour right inside the Coelacanth Marine National Park to the Lake Victoria town of Musoma will result in several hundreds of hectares of forest, wetlands and swamps on the Ugandan side being cleared and drained to build a corresponding new lake port.
While all infrastructure is already in place, and only needs upgrading from the Ugandan as well as the Tanzanian side, and here I am talking enlarging the existing and substantially underutilized ports of Tanga on the Indian Ocean and Mwanza on Lake Victoria in Tanzania and Port Bell as well as Jinja in Uganda, it is mindboggling that new ports and a new railway line should be constructed literally only a few dozen kilometres apart from the existing rail line, itself due for upgrading and modernization to standard gauge standards in coming years, and the ports already in place.
No road or rail infrastructure to the proposed new site on Lake Victoria presently exists, raising the questions what exactly is being planned there and who in particular is to benefit from such a white elephant mega project, flogged on the Ugandan public as development and progress just the same way as Tanzanian officials wish to make one believe that eradicating the breeding ground of East Africas flamingos at Lake Natron, to make way for a soda ash plant, is progress too, as would be a highway and railway across the Serengeti plains even if the great migration would be finished within a few years.
The National Forest Authority and NEMA in Kampala have reportedly denied any knowledge of plans to drain wetlands in the absence of any EIA conducted so far or to cut down an entire forest, something Uganda seems to become notorious for considering the attempted give away of a quarter of Mabira Forest to have an ailing sugar company grow cane instead of keeping over 7.000 hectares of tropical trees.
But then here, as in the case of the Serengeti Highway, there is now true hope for the environment getting its day in court as the East African Court of Justice, going by a recent statement of the court registrar, is more than willing to accept such cases where national legislation and regulations are being bent or broken and the national court systems are unable or unwilling to provide a fair hearing.
Time for the environmental fraternity across Eastern Africa to share their notes and observations and strategize how to tackle such moonshine projects, which with a bit of common sense could not just avoid costly duplication using money we need for education and health, but avoid lasting damage for our environment.
Watch this space.