TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

Compiled by Mark Gillies

Travel agents often mistakenly sell Africa as a timeless, changeless place. They do so to appeal to a perceived need to escape from the pressures of modern life. They are of course utterly wrong, both in the case of Tanzania and any other African nation. However, what is correct is the connection between Tanzanian tourism and the sustainable management of the natural environment. In both these areas, there has been considerable activity over the first quarter of 2012.

The Serengeti road saga

Kenya’s Daily Nation reported how Tanzania’s appeal to block a case against the construction of a highway across the Serengeti National Park had been dismissed by the Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice. It ruled that the court had full jurisdiction to hear the case because the park was part of the transnational ecosystem straddling Kenya and Tanzania and that matters pertaining to environmental conservation cut across nation states and were therefore included in the EAC Treaty.
The ruling came after the Tanznania’s Attorney-General had objected to the hearing of a case which was filed by the Nairobi-based NGO African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in December 2010 and which was against the tarmac road project. The case was set to be heard at the court before Tanzania’s objection last year. Tanzania argued that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case on grounds that it was a matter of a sovereign nature, not falling under the EAC protocols; and that any legal dispute on the Serengeti National Park should be handled by the Tanzania’s courts as the park was within Tanzania’s borders and managed locally. The ruling means that the main case can be heard at any time.

The concern generated by the proposed road (although the Tanzanian Government has now shelved the plan) by the tourism sector as well as environmentalists is an example as to how aware the sector is of the need to both maintain Tanzania’s natural resources and the country’s international reputation as a quality tourism destination in the ultra-competitive long-haul travel market.

Mounting insecurity in Zanzibar
Salma Said, writing in The Citizen, describes how mounting insecurity is threatening the tourism sector in Zanzibar, the island’s major foreign exchange earner. He reported that nearly 60% of the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI) members were affected by robberies and other criminal incidents last year, prompting stakeholders to appeal for speedy government intervention. Other operational pressures were listed as erratic electric power, unreliable water supply, poor communication and visible refuse. The ZATI chairman stressed the importance of maintaining Zanzibar’s world-acclaimed historical sites. These concerns were echoed by Italian ambassador to Tanzania. Pierluigi Velardi, from whose country 36 per cent of tourists to Zanzibar originate. He also appealed to the Zanzibar government to improve the main airport.

Some tour operators have indicated that they do not sell Zanzibar as a paradise because it is not: it is part of a developing nation with a fascinating history located in the tropics. However, many agents do and ‘Paradise’ is what many tourists want; they don’t want litter, insecurity and warm beer. The provision of ‘Paradise’ (as a tourism product at least) is dependent upon a well- managed and protected natural environment. There will always be threats to this environment, for whatever reason, but the last three months have seen the launch of positive environmental protection initiatives.

The Daily News reported how the authorities have seized chain saw machines from illegal operators in Unguja Island. This follows the government ban against illegal use of machines in forests announced by Mr Sheha Hamdan, Director of Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. At a gathering to launch regulations against use of chain saw machines at Maruhubi, guests were treated to the burning in public of five confiscated chain saw machines. Use of a chain saw without a permit now carries a fine or a six month prison sentence.

Speaking at the gathering, Acting Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources Mr Ramadhani Abdallah Shaaban stressed the need for a major re-forestation exercise, and joint efforts in reducing illegal chain saw operations. Mr Shaaban expressed his concern over alarming deforestation, estimating that about 950 hectares of trees had been cleared illegally between 1997, when the forestry laws were set, and 2007. He attributed the trend to growing demand for wood, ignorance, greater use of machines and population growth.

Sadly, the threat of deforestation looms over much of rural Tanzania due to increased subsistence farming, the growing need for charcoal and commercial logging. The Daily News reported from Arusha how this has pushed African sandalwood trees to the edge of extinction in Ngorongoro and Karatu districts, Arusha Region. Used for its scented wood and to extract oil for making perfumes and various pharmaceutical products, African sandalwood is in high demand in China, India, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. A single one tonne pickup full of sandalwood logs can fetch up to TShs 1 million or more and the trade is big business.

Although the threats remain, it is encouraging to see community environmental protection initiatives continuing. The Daily News reported how 12 representatives from Olerienmagaiduru and Mgongomageri villages in Ngorongoro District have vowed to campaign against human activities threatening the survival of the Loliondo forest reserve after attending an intensive training course on forest assessment sponsored by the Frankfurt Zoological Society.

Loliondo is home to three crucial forest reserves covering about 10,000 hectares, which together form part of the Serengeti and Lake Natron ecosystem. The training aimed to broaden participatory forest management of the Sarian community forest reserve that is shared by the two villages. Six representatives from each village attended to be educated in and equipped with techniques to preserve and conserve the Sarian forest, in line with the national forest policy that gives communities wide opportunity to participate on forest management.

Further good news came from Iringa, where The Daily News reported that President Kikwete has said the government will not allow pastoralists or farmers to return to the Ihefu wetlands because the area is of great economic significance to the nation. The President said it was time for political leaders to take decisions that might anger the public but benefit the nation. He said the world is grappling with water scarcity and many people are scrambling for the little that is available due to climate change. The President said Ihefu pours its waters into the Great Ruaha from where the Mtera dam generates electricity.

The Rufiji basin, an important irrigated farming area, also depends on Ihefu. In celebrating Water Week, the President also inaugurated the Iringa Urban Water Project, expected to benefit 200,000 people in Iringa town, neighbouring communities and villages.

The project cost a total of Euro 33,458,000 (about TShs 73bn) and was implemented by Iringa Urban Water Supply Authority (IRUWASA). Euro 17,076,000 (about TShs 35) was donated by the European Union while the rest came from the Water Basket, the Federal Republic of Germany and IRUWASA.

And finally…
An experienced porter, Wilfred Moshi, who has been climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for decades, was set to become the first Tanzanian to conquer the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest, in May. Moshi raised the $100,000 required from mountain climbing enthusiasts in the UK, USA, Middle East, and New Zealand. The whole exercise was expected to take ten weeks. We wish him luck. Safari njema Bw. Moshi.

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