Tanzania plans hydropower dam on UNESCO Heritage Site
Tanzania is planning to build a hydropower dam on a UNESCO World Heritage Site, raising concerns over the potential impact on local wildlife.
President John Magufuli confirmed the plan, which is designed to improve the reach of Tanzania’s power supply, during the first leg of his tour of the Coast Region. The new dam will be built in Selous Game Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.
Questions raised over environmental impact
Selous Game Reserve is one of Africa’s largest protected areas, covering 50,000 square kilometres – making it larger than Denmark – and described by UNESCO as “relatively undisturbed by human impact”.
The area is home to large numbers of elephants, black rhinoceroses, cheetahs, giraffes, hippopotamuses and crocodiles. However, the populations of elephants and rhinoceros in Tanzania’s parks are already on the decline.
The reserve was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, described by the UN organisation as having “outstanding universal value”.
A few years later, Tanzania’s hydropower master plan was drafted – including plans for the upcoming project at Selous Game Reserve.
Project to go ahead
With Tanzania’s president confirming the plans, Selous Game Reserve will be the home of a major Steigers Gorge hydroelectric project on the Rufiji River. Once completed, the dam will generate an additional 2,100 megawatts of electricity for the country, but critics are concerned about the environmental impact on the reserve, which is already on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.
There are fears that increased access to the reserve, as a result of the construction work taking place, will result in an increase of poaching activities. This is before the widely accepted environmental impact of building dams in naturally rich areas.
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