UNESCO maintains Selous World Heritage Site respect

21Jul 2021
Marc Nkwame
The Guardian
UNESCO maintains Selous World Heritage Site respect

SELOUS Game Reserve has finally managed to retain its World Heritage Site status though by whiskers, after a series of heated debating sessions among global conservationists,as they had expressed concern over environment destruction in the large reserve.

Dr Allan Kijazi the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, said that most reports that crucified Selous in the international community were negatively biased against the game reserve and Tanzania has managed to explain the real situation in the area,.

 “Our experts have worked hard to come up with an intercepting report which gives the proper perspective of the Selous and convincing 21 member countries of the World Heritage Committee at a virtual meeting chaired by China, on Tanzania’s dedication to conservation, contrary to previous speculations,” the top conservator explained.

As it happened the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) had previously advised the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to delete the Selous Game Reserve from the coveted World Heritage Sites listing. It cited what it said was the damage caused by the ongoing construction of the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Project.

Tapping water from the Rufiji basin, the project is expected to encompass well over 125,000 hectares of land, with the mega project and related feeder roads seem to raise alarm among conservationists, citing it as some sort of industrial complex “sticking out like a sore thumb from the heart of the Selous’ rich wilderness.”

The EIA deputy wildlife campaign leader Shruti Suresh, claimed that the power project contravenes international legal frameworks and will only continue to further undermine one of Africa’s largest remaining wilderness areas.

The EIA launched a serious campaign against the Rufiji hydropower project, calling upon governments around the world to support the delisting of the Selous, as well as urging all companies involved to divest from the project.

UNESCO, the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had earlier supported the idea of delisting Selous from that vital reference status.

Other reasons cited include poaching cases being reported from 2014 and deforestation again linked to clearing land for the dam’s construction. EIA had also consulted with investors in the Rufiji project’s lead construction company and major banks financing the project.

Prof Khamis Malebo, executive secretary for the National UNESCO Committee, explained that the earlier falsified reports were geared to suggest that a vast area of forest cover in Selous was depleted to pave the way for the hydropower project.

 “But in reality only a few blocks have been chopped off in Selous to clear land for the project,” he said, noting that Selous Game Reserve measures over 50,000 square kilometers. It was established in 1922, and has for the past century been the largest conservation entity in East Africa, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO 60 years later, in 1982.

In 2019 the new Nyerere National Park was annexed from Selous to form the country's largest game park with large numbers of elephants, black rhinoceroses, cheetahs, giraffes, hippopotamuses and crocodiles.

Other than the Selous, Tanzania hosts other World Heritage Sites such as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Kilwa Kisiwani ruins and nearby at Songo Mnara, Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, the Zanzibar Stone Town zone and Kondoa ancient rock art sites.