At the on-going 41stWorld Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has re-affirmed its commitment to undertake the Stiegler’s Gorge Hydroelectric Development Project within the Selous Game Reserve World Heritage Site. The Tanzanian delegation to the meeting is led by Maj. Gen. Gaudence S. Milanzi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism also composed of H. E Samwel W. Shelukindo, Ambassador of the United Republic of Tanzania to France and Permanent delegate to UNESCO, as well as senior experts from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
During the meeting, the Permanent Secretary informed delegates from across the World that the plans to build the dam have been on the government’s agenda since the 1960’s. The Selous Game Reserve covers 50,000sq km and the proposed project will only covers 3% of the area. He reiterated that the Selous Game Reserve was therefore inscribed in the World Heritage List with this agenda already on the table. It should be noted that at the time of inscription of the reserve in 1982, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considered that the Stiegler's Gorge project was of no serious environmental concern, given the vast size of the property. The Permanent Secretary further pointed that Tanzania has recently made a firm decision towards industrial transformation, which has significantly increased energy demand. Given the currently available power generation options, it has been imperative to re-consider Stiegler’s Gorge as a power source.
The Permanent Secretary also indicated that at full capacity, implementation of this project will boost the total power production for the country by about 144.8%, and therefore, Tanzania has decided to develop the Stiegler’s Gorge power source to its full potential to address the widened gap in power demand. When completed, it will benefit the majority of the Tanzanian population currently living without electricity. The project will also meet the increased industrial power demand in the country.
In underscoring Tanzania’s position, the Permanent Secretary noted that if well planned, executed and monitored, projects such as power dams need not necessarily adversely impair conservation. In contrast, by use of the best available technological options, planning and monitoring tools, such projects stand to generate national wealth and improve the livelihoods and social well-being of local communities without adversely jeopardizing the very environmental base that generates such benefits. He also pointed out that despite the ‘no option’ conception for hydropower projects within or adjacent World Heritage sites, in reality demand for such projects continue to exist worldwide since they address basic socio-economic needs not only in Tanzania but also in other countries.
In delivering the statement, the Permanent Secretary emphasized that the message was to confirm to the World Heritage Committee about Tanzania`s determination to proceed with the project, based on the principles of sustainable development. He however said that, Tanzania was ready for further consultations that will allow implementation of this prioritized endeavor for the socio-economic and environmental well-being of the Game Reserve and Tanzania as a whole. Before the discussion, Tanzanian delegation held consultations with senior officers of the World Heritage Centre and its Advisory Bodies on the matter and officially submitted a letter to the World Heritage Centre expressingTanzania’s position.
Tanzania strongly opposed to the previous draft resolution No. 41 COM 7 A.17 paragraph 7 which urged Tanzania to Permanently abandon the Stieglier`s Gorge Hydro- Power Project. After the Statement the draft resolution was later amended and the paragraph was reviewed accordingly.
Tanzania is a signatory to the World Heritage Convention of 1972. Seven sites in Tanzania are inscribed in the list of the World Heritage List including the Selous Game Reserve and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Tanzania is currently a member of the World Heritage Committee for the period of four years until 2019. Since admission to the membership in 2015, Tanzania has been pushing the Committee to uphold the concept of sustainable development in the Committee’s agenda and guidelines in order to allow physical development and optimal socio-economic developments with minimal possible adverse environmental impacts.
The meeting also discussed the Ngorongoro World Heritage Site and during the deliberations, the World Heritage Committee commended the United Republic of Tanzania for accomplishing steps towards hardening of the Ngorongoro – Serengeti road passing through the two conservation areas in order to mitigate the adverse environmental effects due heavy traffic of tourist vehicles in order to improve visitors` experiences.
Responding to the issues raised by the World Heritage Committee, the Conservator of Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, Dr. Freddy Manongi informed the Committee that the main purpose of the road surface upgrade was to address environmental concerns created by the use of the existing earth road by over 500 tourist vehicles each day during the high tourism season. The use of the earth road in the area demands quarterly maintenance which leads to adverse environmental impacts such as air (dust), visual and noise pollution. He reiterated that currently the maintenance of the earth road is costly and has exhausted gravel materials from the property and water has also become scarce. Such costs could otherwise be used to support conservation and human community development efforts within the conservation area.
The on-going 41st session of the World Heritage Committee meeting which is attended by all 193 State Parties to the convention is expected to deliberate on a number of important issues regarding conservation and protection of the World heritage Site including the nomination of the new sites to the World Heritage List submitted by other State Parties. The meeting will end on 12th July, 2017.
9th July, 2017