(eTN) - Within days of news breaking that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has approved the Tanzanian government's request to carve out a 200-square-kilometer part of the world's largest game reserve to establish a Uranium mining and processing facility, news broke overnight that the Rufiji Basin Development Authority had signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with Brazil's Odebrecht International, a company known to develop hydro-electric power facilities, including building huge dams.
The Tanzanian tourism industry is now getting increasingly worried that the planned power station at Stiegler's Gorge will irrevocably alter the reserve's core tourism area to the worse, with a very extensive area beyond the dam subject to being flooded by the reservoir lake, displacing significant animal populations from their present habitat.
It has also been ascertained through a source in Paris that UNESCO apparently is not aware of any application for approval of such a dramatic intervention in this World Heritage Site, which was launched back in 1982, when the then government's commitment to conservation was more than mere lip service and misleading statements.
The conservation and green lobby is already incensed over claims made by Tanzanian government officials about the allegedly minimal problems with Uranium mining, accusing the government to not just downplay risks but to hoodwink the public into believing that the toxicity of the extraction of Uranium and the processing before shipment was negligible.
Experts have warned of dire consequences for the health of workers, nearby villages, the game population finding their water sources increasingly poisoned, and eventually the ocean where the rivers empty into carrying their toxic cargo of poisons.
Said a regular contributor from Dar es Salaam in a mail overnight: âThe Selous Game Reserve could be opened up for tourism way beyond what is being done now. It is the biggest wilderness area right now in Africa, if not the world, and has space for many more tourist ventures. Those would all create employment, earn the government park entrance fees, taxes, and more. That is a very sustainable income source, and it is not poisonous like mining.
âI think we are not being told the truth about the fallout in years to come. I think we deserve to know that truth, and we shall try find our own experts to outline the short- and long-haul dangers to the Selous if that mining goes ahead. The companies involved poisoned their own back yards, like in Russia, and now they want to do the same here to us? It is not right.
âWe are losing credibility in the world about conservation. Poaching is very bad, illegal logging is very bad, and now this after the Serengeti highway problems and the soda ash factory and the marine national park near Tanga [is] also being targeted. This has to stop.â