During its 37th Conference of Parties in Phnom Phen, Cambodia, at the end of June, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) discussed amongst other issues the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania that was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982.
During its session in St. Petersburg last year the WHC had agreed to de-gazette ca. 400 km2 in the south-east of the Reserve upon the request of the Tanzanian Government in order to facilitate uranium mining, which is not possible inside a World Heritage Site according to the Convention. In return Tanzania was expected to observe a number of conditions in respect to the uranium mine. In addition no other development projects were expected to be constructed inside the Reserve. It was regretted by the WHC that Tanzania had not provided the required information on the effects of uranium mining. It was also observed that no progress was made in adding areas to the site in compensation for the de-gazetted land, as promised by the state party before the St. Petersburg decision.
Instead Tanzania has condoned the planning for a large dam at Stiegler’s Gorge in the heart of the Reserve. If implemented this would completely change the sensitive ecosystem along the Rufiji river and its lakes. The committee therefore expressed its concern. The dam is to be built with Brazilian capital and expertise. The design is not known yet and an environmental impact analysis has not taken place, but will be commissioned. The head of the 21-strong State delegation reported that the former retention-scheme for the Reserve has been reintroduced thus overcoming the problem of lack of finances for the Reserve. Previously the protected area retained half of its income for management purposes and anti-poaching. An IUCN/UNESCO monitoring mission to the site will take place early next year. The delegation also reported that elephant poaching in the Selous was slowly being brought under control. Tanzania’s two other World Heritage Sites, the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area were also discussed at the conference.