For the first time, a dam is being built in a UNESCO world Heritage site in Tanzania which is destined to irretrievable destroy in the long term perhaps one of the greatest game reserves in the world, the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania. It is one of the world’s largest protected wildernesses. It was, until recently, home to one of the largest elephant concentrations on the African continent.
This game reserve has a 123-year history. It has been coveted by big business because whenever they see untouched wilderness they see profit in some shape or form be it digging it up from minerals, chopping it down for plantations or in this instance flooding it for a dam.
Conservationists see this move as a catastrophe with a high likelihood of irreversible damage. The dam will destroy the reserve’s ecosystem. It will reduce the habitat of the wildlife that thrive in it. It will encourage further commercialism and be the beginning of the end for this wonderful wilderness.
Conservationists in the West have lobbied Tanzania to halt the development. There appears to be doubt as to whether the dam will ever work and it could even bankrupt the country. It is believed to be a colossal white elephant and ruinous in every way, an economist in Tanzania said. The project is ill-conceived.
Tanzania’s president, John Joseph Magufuli, isn’t interested in listening to Western criticism. He has closed independent newspapers and he has arrested 20 members of Parliament who opposed him. He appears to be one of those classic African dictators lording it over a pretend democracy.
It is called the Stiegler’s Gorge Dam. It would double Tanzania’s electricity supply and be the beginning of industrialisation of the country. His critics say that it is a vanity project. It is said that he favours grand ideas over realism. Corruption is well known Africa and this project opens the doors to many corrupt transactions.
Some argue that it is not possible to produce the electricity that the dam is designed to produce. One factor apparently is that the river’s capacity is declining. Where the money is coming from is unclear. Some believe that China is behind it. The Chinese are everywhere in Africa, plundering its untapped wealth and conning the dictators.
The Tanzania government claim that they will not be seeking funds from China which would saddle the state with high debt. However, two Chinese companies, state-owned, had been seen visiting the construction side every day. There appears to be large numbers of employees from these corporations at the site.
Woodland is already being chopped down to make way for a large artificial reservoir. Woodland of an area the size of Surrey is threatened.
The place is being industrialised with roads and bridges being built to accommodate heavy duty vehicles.
Downriver the wetland sites will be threatened which could spell disaster for East Africa’s largest endangered mangrove forest.
The elephants are already vanishing due to poaching. The dam will do more damage to their population. An aerial survey in 2014 assessed that 15,000 elephants were left in the reserve which represents a fall of 45,000 in five years and a 90% decline since the reserve was created.
Africa is being industrialised and commercialised to the point where the wild species living on that continent will gradually be decimated in population size. This is inevitable and China plays a big role in this destruction of wildlife. Can the West complain about this? Does the West have a right to complain? The UK was industrialised many years ago. British people destroyed the wildcat in the UK by 1835. The Scottish wildcat has been destroyed through hybridisation with stray domestic and feral cats. We have done all this before so can we complain when developing countries do it as well?