Tanzania’s “official” hope to change her image as a conservation-loving nation is left in fresh tatters as news has emerged from Dar es Salaam that public statements made in recent months vis-a-vis conservation efforts and the use of best international practice seem to count little when it comes to pushing ahead an agenda which rides roughshod over conservation and environmental protection for profit.
The signing of an agreement a few days ago to mine the highly-toxic uranium inside the Selous Game Reserve, at a time when nuclear energy is once more under the microscope following the catastrophic damage to reactors in Japan as a result of an earthquake and subsequent tsunami and the resulting toxic pollution which has now been measured around the globe, is a slap in the face of those who believed Tanzania’s assurances that a change of heart has taken place.
Additionally, the latest statements from government-owned NDC have left no doubt that plans are being pursued to create not just one but two soda ash extraction plants in the Lake Natron and Lake Engaruka area of Tanzania, in spite of all environmental studies putting the thumbs down on such projects and area residents living near Lake Engaruka vehemently opposed to such plans.
The Acting Managing Director of NDC is on record has having stated on May 11:
1. There will be two plants at Natron and Engaruka but work will start at Lake Natron.
2. The two plants will produce 1.5 million tons of soda ash per year and soda ash deposits can last 540 years.
3. NDC is looking for investors.
4. The economic benefit of the soda ash will be Tsh 720 billion (time not specified). At least 1,000 jobs will be created.
5. Lake Natron plant to be COMPLETED by early 2015.
6. NDC has confirmed through research that soda ash mining will NOT harm Lesser Flamingos, their breeding site and the environment.
7. A land use plan is underway.
8. The two plants will attract other soda ash related industries (not specified) as well as hotels, banks and other services.
The conservation and environmental fraternity have taken immediate issue with the statement that the flamingos will not be affected as the area set aside for soda ash mining is located entirely inside the main breeding grounds the flamingos from across East Africa use and all studies conducted so far by credible environmentalists say that the flaming populations will be either dramatically reduced or else wiped out completely within years.
Said a regular conservation source in Arusha after seeking feedback on the information received: “We keep telling you that they cannot be trusted. They talk with forked tongues. This is the true nature of the Kikwete government when it comes to conservation and observing best environmental practice. Even all the talk of now fighting poaching, just ask if any of those on the list of 300 Kagesheki reportedly compiled have been arrested? Whatever they do they do under international pressure but deep inside, we see no change of heart at all. And the ministers who sign those deals, they have no option. They either toe the line or quit or be fired. Right now whatever success they tell you they have in fighting poaching is just another window dress and smoke screen. Mind my words and check in a few months what actually has changed on the ground.”
Harsh words by someone who has been alleged to be a government opponent or the truth spoken by a committed conservationist? As the source said, time will tell so watch this space.