Selous should never be allowed to die

19Nov 2016
The Guardian
Selous should never be allowed to die

A REPORT carried in this paper last week indicated that Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania’s southern tourist circuit is reclaiming its status as one of the largest protected areas in Africa relatively undisturbed by human impact.

But all this is thanks to the political will demonstrated by President John Pombe Magufuli. The president has vowed to fight poaching and protect the country’s natural resources, including Selous Game Reserve which covers 50,000 square kilometres.

As the government is struggling to reclaim the status of Selous, the focus at least for now, should be taking efforts aimed at delisting the game reserve from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Fast forward to June 18, 2014 when the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) meeting in Doha, Qatar, inscribed the Selous Game Reserve on the List of World Heritage in Danger, saying widespread poaching was decimating wildlife populations in the reserve.

The committee called on the international community, including ivory transit and destination countries, to support Tanzania in the fight against this criminal activity.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are places of importance to cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972.

Tanzania ratified the convention on August 2, 1977, making its historical sites eligible for inclusion on the list. Tanzania has seven UNESCO world heritage sites and two of them are placed on the world heritage sites in danger.

The other is the ruins o Kilwa Kisiwani which was placed in the list of World Heritage Site in Danger in 2004 because of continued deterioration of the site due to various agents such as erosion.

Other world heritage sites in Tanzania are the Serengeti National Park, The Ngorongoro Conservation area, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Stone Town of Zanzibar and rock art sites in Kondoa district, Dodoma region.

The Selous Game Reserve was placed under the List of World Heritage Site in Danger following the rampant poaching that caused a dramatic decline in the wildlife populations, especially elephants and rhino, whose numbers dropped by almost 90 percent since 1982, when the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

As elephants have started to be counted again in the Selous Game Reserve, the government should now start taking efforts aimed at delisting the game reserve from the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

In so doing, the government should also reconsider its decision to undertake major projects in the game reserve.

There are plans to mine uranium in the game reserve, to source water from Kidunda Dam and to develop hydropower generation from
Stiegler’s Gorge.

These projects will definitely compromise the authenticity and
universal values for which the site was nominated and inscribed in the
World Heritage Sites List.

It would therefore be more sensible that the government seeks for alternative sources of energy and water as there are plenty of these alternatives.

We would therefore recommend that the government should shelve the programmes and take on alternative sources such as energy from fossil fuel sources including gas, geothermal and wind and water from Rufiji or lower parts of Ruvu and Wami Rivers.

There is plenty of Rufiji River water beyond the Stiegler's Gorge that could be economically drawn as recourse to the domestic and international conservation concerns.

Indeed, there is a hope in sight that the wildlife numbers is recuperating in Selous Game Reserve. The current situation and status of
wildlife in Selous is an opportune for pulling together all available management resources to protect this invaluable and priceless natural resources treasure.

We should bear in mind that once the ecological integrity of Selous Game Reserve is lost it will never be regained or will be regained through excruciating efforts.

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