TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

by Mark Gillies

In November the Bank of Tanzania released data for October 2012 to September 2013, which shows an increase in tourism earnings from US $ 1.61 billion to US $ 1.82 billion. Tourism is now the strongest performing economic sector in Tanzania, outstripping all other sectors including gold mining, which had claimed top spot a year ago at a time of record high gold prices.

Loliondo land issue
One piece of good news for the Maasai population of Loliondo, if not for the directors of the Ortelo Business Corporation (OCB), was reported by David Smith in the (UK) Guardian on 7 October, when civil society groups claimed that the Tanzanian government has dropped its plans to annex 1,500 sq km in the Loliondo Concession for a ‘wildlife corridor’. Although it should be noticed that no statement has been made by the Tanzanian government on the issue, Samwel Nangiria, coordinator of the local Ngonett civil society group, described how Prime Minister Pinda spent two and half days in Loliondo in September with the Maasai, who reiterated that the land in question must not be annexed. The Maasai leaders are now in discussions with lands ministry to update the legal status of their land holdings.

If this report does turn out to be correct, the successful model of internet-based, international protest, combined with well-organised and politically engaged local opposition, may be followed by other groups threatened by large scale land appropriation.

Lake Natron
Another Tanzanian government large scale development plan received bad news in November when the National Development Corporation (NDC) published the results of the eight-month scientific study into the environmental impact of the construction of the Lake Natron soda ash extraction plant.

Their dramatic conclusion was that President Kikwete’s directive to proceed with the construction of the plant would ‘almost certainly wipe out East Africa’s lesser flamingo population’. The study demonstrates how the mud flats of Lake Natron are the only place in East Africa where the lesser flamingo can breed. The construction of the soda ash extraction plant would disrupt the movement and feeding patterns of the birds so severely that a secure future would not be possible.

By linking the project to the destruction of a species that has great significance for both Tanzania and Kenya, the NDC has placed a for­midable obstacle in the path of the Tanzanian government, who have dismissed previous opposition as “the work of the mzungu”.

Poaching
The poaching of elephant and rhino for their tusks and horn continues to be a tragic issue across Africa. Tanzania is suffering its sad share of the losses, although the extent is uncertain. In November alone, two large seizures of ivory were made in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. The Dar seizure weighed over 1.9 tonnes and was estimated to comprise ivory from 200 elephant. Submerged in a strong smelling concoction designed to prevent detection, it was found in the residence compound of three Chinese living in Dar.

The recent wide-scale anti-poaching operation using Ministry of Natural Resources personnel, police and members of the TDF, code named ‘Tokomeza’ has been criticized as badly managed. Individuals were given the chance to settle personal scores and human rights abuses were committed. It was asked why so much activity occurred in northern Tanzania, in the vicinity of the Serengeti National Park, when the majority of the poaching occurs in the remote areas of the Selous Game Reserve. There are unverified reports that Tokomeza has been active in the Selous with a similar ruthless efficiency, but, as ever, stories from that area are difficult to corroborate.

Perhaps, in the not too distant future, human anti-poaching efforts will be assisted by drone technology. Following President Obama’s offer of assistance to the Tanzanian government during his recent visit to Tanzania, conservation groups in the US subsequently contacted the Tanzanian Embassy in Washington DC, which are apparently being considered. (Daily News)

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