World Heritage Committee upholds most protections for Selous Game Reserve economy and environment
However, while Tanzania’s work to safeguard Selous’ elephants are to be applauded, the government is also pushing forward with plans that threaten the Selous.
Noting that proposed developments could wipe out vast areas of the World Heritage site, the committee has requested that Tanzania prepare a comprehensive strategic environmental assessment regarding the proposed Stiegler’s Gorge dam, and requested that they consider other options for power generation.
One of the last great African wildernesses, Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania is home to globally important populations of elephants, lions, hippos and African wild dogs. It has a huge opportunity for sustainable development, through tourism and other means which avoid large scale damage. However, industrial scale poaching, as well as other unsustainable industrial activities, can negatively affect livelihoods and the outstanding value of the area, and fears are growing for the future of this World Heritage Site.
Dr Colman O’Criodain, WWF Wildlife Policy Manager, said “We want Tanzania and the Selous Game Reserve to develop, but sustainably, without risking the outstanding value of the site. We are working with the government, and its heartening to see a fall in poaching.
“However, a number of oil and gas concessions have been issued for Selous and there are other industrial scale activities proposed in the Reserve that would impact the spaces elephants and wildlife need to live.
“We are calling for the government to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment on the Larger Selous Ecosystem to ensure all wider impacts are identified and considered before any decisions are made. Such an assessment should include evaluations of the alternatives.”
In 2014, UNESCO placed Selous on its List of World Heritage in Danger due to the severity of elephant poaching. WWF is calling for greater effort in combatting wildlife crime, an assessment of the impacts of proposed industrial activities, investment in sustainable tourism infrastructure, and an equitable distribution of benefits to nearby communities.
Aslihan Tumer, head of campaigns at WWF International, said “This issue is not an issue unique to Tanzania. Nearly half of all World Heritage sites worldwide are seeing ongoing pressure from large-scale, and potentially harmful, industrialization, in-spite of the clear economic and social value these properties provide locally, nationally and globally. We encourage the committee to be consistent in protecting the future capacity of all these sites to continue providing outstanding universal value to all humanity”.