Over the last six months, the World Heritage Centre (WHC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have received numerous reports expressing concern about the decision of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to move forward with the construction of a hydropower dam at Stiegler's Gorge, located within the Selous Game Reserve World Heritage property.
The Selous Game Reserve was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982, in recognition of its outstanding universal value as one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in Africa, with relatively undisturbed ecological and biological processes and exceptional biodiversity. In 2014, the site was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger owing to a poaching crisis that has led to dramatic declines in the elephant population of the Selous ecosystem.
The World Heritage Committee has been closely following hydropower project developments in recent years. On a number of occasions, the World Heritage Committee has reiterated its utmost concern over the high likelihood of serious and irreversible damage to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property resulting from the Stiegler’s Gorge project, and therefore requested the State Party “to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the impacts, risks, costs, benefits, and alternatives as a basis for any decision-making regarding the project” (Decision 38 COM 7B.95) and “to consider alternative options to the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project” (Decision 41 COM 7A.17). The Committee also requested the State Party to fully implement all of the recommendations of the Reactive Monitoring mission that took place in February 2017. The full mission report along with the various Committee’s decisions are available on the website for public consultation at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/199/documents/
In a recent letter to His Excellency, Mr John Magufuli, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, UNESCO’s Director-General, Ms Audrey Azoulay, stated “we are concerned that a decision to go forward with the construction of the Stiegler’s dam is likely to have a devastating and irreversible impact on Selous’ unique ecosystem, and that it will jeopardize the potential of the site to contribute to sustainable development”.
UNESCO firmly believes that World Heritage sites are invaluable assets that can provide an essential contribution to inclusive local economic development, job creation, and the strengthening of social resilience.
UNESCO is prepared to pursue its constructive dialogue with the Tanzanian authorities on this matter with a view to ensuring the conservation of the Selous Game Reserve World Heritage site.