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We need to rescue this forest reserve

18th April 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

In yesterday’s issue of this paper we ran a news story on how small-scale gold mining in the Mkinga District (Tanga Region) portion of Segoma Forest Reserve causing environmental degradation and threatening the reserve’s very survival.

We have established that the rush for gold and other precious stones in that part of the Eastern Arc Mountains is damaging the major water supply source in the Region and threatening to wipe out its fauna and flora.

According to our investigations, residents of surrounding communities have been trying to prevent groups of armed miners from wreaking any further harm and damage but to no avail.

The story of gold diggers invading this very important reserve, where they mine stones as they move from one stretch to another, is cause for great concern and calls for immediate remedial measures.

This is because it is not the first time that the miners are entering the forest reserve, indiscriminately felling trees as they search for minerals.

Nor is it the first time we have published stories on this sad development. In the early 2000s some groups of youths, after being informed of the reserve’s riches, started combing its escarpments, promontories, ridges and valleys for the “hidden wealth”. As they did so, erosion, pollution and land degradation, which were not very known in the area, gradually assumed alarming proportions.

The Energy and Minerals ministry intervened at one stage, with a view to ensuring that these invaders were kicked out of the area. The intervention worked, but the problem was far from conclusively addressed – and pollution of River Zigi nearby continued.

Village leaders in the area are now complaining that the youths have come back and this time in full force, as they are not only out to get gold but are also polluting the river and engaging in poaching.

It is to be understood that we are talking about an area legally recognised as a forest reserve where, by definition, any form of invasion is a criminal offence.

We are aware that the village leadership has shown concern over the fact that most of the mining and poaching are strategically conducted deep in the forest and usually under cover of darkness, that is, when there is hardly anybody to ensure there is no such invasion.

But we are also aware of a promise Dr Terezya Huvisa, Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office (Environment), made in an exclusive interview with this paper with regard to ways to arrest the situation.

Our concern is that the government is taking needlessly long to chip in with appropriate interventions by reining in all culprits and therefore bringing the situation back to normal.

Villagers as well as local, district and higher authorities in Tanga Region have always complained about the mess going on in Segoma Forest Reserve.

The longer it takes to find a lasting solution to the problem, in part by suitably empowering villagers, the more one fails to understand if the respective authorities are really serious about walking their talk.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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