First, a highway through the Serengeti, now, a uranium mine in Selous Game Reserve. Tanzania’s plans are drawing the ire of environmentalists, conservationists, and zebra-and-wildebeest huggers around the world. The government is eying Tanzanian game and park lands for developments that are in direct conflict with migrating wildlife, potentially risking their only sustainable economic sector: tourism. From an eTurbo News article:
Tourism is potentially the most important sustainable economic sector for Tanzania. We can make more money over a longer term, and create more jobs, earn more forex, and introduce more investment than mining Uranium in the Selous. The mine might last maybe 25 or 30 years, and the environmental damage will be huge. Once the resource has been plundered, I have really no other description, it will be the same like with our gold deposits. The ‘investors’ will move on and leave us with giant holes in the ground and massive destruction.
The Selous Game Reserve is home to elephants, black rhinos, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles and hundreds of bird species. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site occupying over 20,000 square miles of Tanzanian savanna. Access to the reserve is supposedly tightly managed — there are no permanent structures human habitation allowed — but poaching is still a problem. And there are those valuable minerals in the ground, tempting short term exploration and exploitation with potentially permanent long term consequences. From the UNESCO listing for the Selous Game Reserve:
The most significant threats are related to exploration and extraction of minerals, oil and gas, and large infrastructure plans; environmental impact assessments need to be conducted for all development activities in the vicinity of the property that are likely to have an impact of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value.
A BBC report says that the government is determined to push the uranium mining project though in spite of objections. From the BBC:
…the uranium mining project was in its infancy, but it would only affect about 0.69% of the current World Heritage site park and would be an important source of income for the country
Firms could expect to earn $200m (£125m) each year from mining uranium from the site, of which $5m would be paid to the government…
It’s unclear if the profit is worth the potential long term damage.
Photo by Bierbauer via Flickr (Creative Commons)