The salt mining project has been established in Buyuni village in Pangani District, Tanga Region.
Buyuni village leaders have given an investor more than 20 hectares of land for the project, which in turn threatens wild animals in the sanctuary, which is the only in East Africa to boast an Indian Ocean beachfront, it possesses all the attributes that make Tanzania’s tropical coastline and islands so popular with European sun-worshippers.
They were speaking to journalists who visited the project and witnessed environmental degradation along the coast of the Indian Ocean as among issues of the project include construction of canals, which endangered wildlife habitat.
On behalf of his fellow investors, Mpalangwe Ansyle said: “We’re surprised by the decision made by village leaders to provide the land for salt mining project while they are aware that the area is one of the wildlife corridors. Putting such a project would endanger wild animals and in a long run they will completely disappear.”
He said that the area where the project is located is a wildlife habitat in the national park as there are times when wildlife spends the entire night in the village.
Ansyle said: “Our fear is that this project would lead to environmental degradation particularly indiscriminate deforestation of mangroves and even loss of wild animals. That’s why we’re calling for government intervention.”
Pangani District Environment Officer, Daudi Mlahagwa said: “I’m aware of this project, but I cannot talk about it, because I have no such mandate. District Council Executive Director will be in a better position to do so.”
When contacted, Pandani District Council Executive Director, Isaya Mbenje said that the investor who is in the village of Buyuni had followed all the procedures to invest in the area and he had been paying taxes on time.
However, he said, there are mangroves in the area that continue to grow well and the project has nothing to do with the tropical coastal vegetation.
Regarding wild animals, Mbenje said animals cannot be restricted to where they should go and where they should not go so often they reach the investor’s area and in the residential areas.
He also said that since the village of Buyuni with a population of about 280 is surrounded by the park, asking the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) to look at how they will be able to relocate them by giving them another area.
“The whole village of Buyuni is surrounded by the park, a situation that puts the lives of villagers in danger because wild animals invade their homes. There are times when people are forced to sleep as early as 6 pm due to the fear of wild animals, as government we’re working hard to ensure the existing community can live well,” he said.
The official added: “In collaboration with TANAPA, we’ll look at how we can empower citizens especially by finding them another place to live so that conservation activities can continue.”
SANAPA Acting Chief Conservator Prisca Lyimo denied to comment on the project because she has no mandate to do so.
Buyuni village chairman, Diwani Waziri said, that the salt mining project started in 2016 and has been a great help to them, noting that the investor has been assisting the village in different aspects--social services such as the construction of rainwater harvesting dams.
“In our area, it is very difficult to get fresh water, but this investor has successfully made a rainwater harvesting dam, which has been helpful to us,” the village leader said.
He further said: “The investor has started building a dispensary in our village, something that will end our long-time challenge as we’re forced to travel long distances looking for healthcare services.”
Salt mining project’s investor, Nasil Salehe said that he has followed all the procedures to acquire the area with all permits including mining, the National Council for Conservation and Environmental Management (NEMC) while paying all taxes in the council.
"I have followed all the procedures in allocating this area and as you have seen this is a huge investment we are making you will provide more jobs when you start," he said.
On the issue of wildlife in the area, Salehe said that this could not be a reason to prevent the project from taking place as the area is a village but is close to the park, which is home to four of the Big Five—lions, African bush elephants, Cape buffaloes, and leopards. Masai giraffes, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, waterbucks, blue wildebeests, bohor reedbucks, common and red duikers, Dik-Diks, yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, Colobus monkeys, mongooses, genets, porcupines, sable antelopes, warthogs, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, nile monitors are also found in the park.
Regarding deforestation and mangroves, he said they are a short distance from the sea area so they aren’t endangered.
He said the project is environmentally friendly so he is surprised by the complainants.