On 2 February 2011, the State Party submitted a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the property. This report provides an overview of the status of various proposed developments, including the Stiegler’s Gorge/ Kidunda dams and the Mukuju River uranium mine, as well as the implementation of the 2007/2008 mission recommendations. The key conservation issues currently affecting the property are discussed below.
a) Proposed dams – Stiegler’s Gorge and Kidunda
The State Party report acknowledges that while no decision of building a dam in Stiegler’s Gorge has been taken, the feasibility of the project is being assessed. The State Party notes that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has been recommended for this project and that the World Heritage Centre will be informed about any project developments. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate the 2008 mission’s conclusion that a dam at Stiegler’s Gorge, which is situated in the middle of the property, would have serious impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and in particular the integrity of the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that major dam projects are not appropriate developments inside natural World Heritage properties. Flooding, as a result of dams, is specifically noted as an example of ascertained danger to OUV of such properties in paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines. They therefore consider that the State Party should reconsider this project in line with its commitments under the Convention. They further recommend that the Stiegler Gorge dam SEA consider using past data and research on this proposal, including the detailed feasibility study funded by the Norwegian government in the 1980’s, which could provide important baseline data and information.
The State Party report notes that a new Environmental Impact Assesment is underway for the re-designed Kidunda Dam, planned at the edge of the property. However, no information is provided if the new design will flood part of the property or affect the Gonabis wetland, an important area for many of Selous’ large mammals on its boundary. They recall that the 2008 mission recommended that any review of the Kidunda dam design should prioritise alternatives outside the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that all environmental assessments for proposals affecting World Heritage properties should meet international best-practice standards and at minimum: i) assess the likely impacts of the proposal on the property’s OUV and integrity, based on the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SoOUV); ii) consider and assess feasible and less environmentally damaging alternatives to the proposal, which in the case of the Stiegler Gorge dam may include alternative energy production/ efficiency options at national level; and iii) undertake adequate stakeholder consultation at both the scoping and environmental report stage in line with international best-practice principles. The State Party should also consider using recommendations from the World Commission on Dams available at http://www.internationalrivers.org/dams-and-development-new-framework-decision
b) Proposed Mukuju River uranium mine
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the State Party submitted a minor boundary modification request to exclude the Mukuju River uranium mine concession area from the property, which will be considered separately under item 8B at its 35th session.
The State Party submitted the ESIA (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment) for the proposed Mukuju River uranium mine to the World Heritage Centre for review. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reviewed the ESIA and provided their assessment to the State Party on 8 March 2010. In their assessment, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN noted that in its current design the uranium mine would be partly located within the property and reiterated that this would be a clear basis for recommending the inscription of Selous Game Reserve on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in line with the Committee’s position that mineral exploration, mining, oil exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status, as well past Committee decisions and the findings of the 2007 and 2008 World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring missions.
They further noted that the ESIA does not assess the likely impacts of the proposal on the property’s OUV and integrity, and therefore cannot form the basis of a decision on whether or not to grant a license for uranium mining even if the mine would be adjacent to the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Government of Tanzania revise the assessment and resubmit the ESIA taking into account World Heritage Centre/IUCN’s comments. In the meantime, they consider that the State Party should not grant the exploitation permit.
c) Weakening of the property’s legal protection and mineral / oil exploration
At the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee (Brasilia, 2010), the World Heritage Centre and IUCN highlighted that the 2009 revision of the Wildlife Act significantly weakened the legal provisions for protection that were in place at the time of inscription of the property by legalizing mineral and oil exploration and exploitation within game reserves. In its report, the State Party acknowledges that mineral and oil exploration and exploitation may undermine the OUV of World Heritage properties but considers that the revised Act addresses this issue by requiring that any development in Game Reserves undergo an EIA; and developments commence only once an EIA certificate is issued by the Ministry responsible for Environment. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN point out that the legal protection regime of Selous Game Reserve at the time of inscription did not allow for oil exploration or exploitation, which is no longer the case as a result of the 2009 Act. They therefore consider that the current legal protection is insufficient for a World Heritage property. The report did not provide details on the current status of the oil exploration project. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN wish to highlight that there exist proposals for hydrocarbon prospecting within the property, and recall the clear policy position of the World Heritage Committee oil exploration are incompatible with World Heritage status.
The State Party notes that it shares the Committee’s concern about the estimated 44% decline in the property’s elephant population between 2006 and 2009. The Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute is in the process of establishing the cause of this decline, which in the State Party’s view may be due to a number of causes aside from illegal killing. Moreover, the State Party considers that a trans-boundary census including the Niassa Game Reserve is needed given the link between its elephant population and Selous’.
IUCN notes that it has received reports of ongoing poaching in the northern sector and along the Mozambique boundary, including in the area of the Mukuju River uranium exploration concession. IUCN has also received reports that field rangers and game scouts have insufficient funds to conduct regular patrols within Selous Game Reserve (SGR) to address the increase in poaching. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the severe poaching problem in Selous can only be addressed by urgently restoring its management capacity, as discussed below. They emphasize that the maintenance of the Selous-Niassa wildlife corridor is important to preserve the integrity of the property over the long-term. They remain concerned about the fragmentation of this corridor due to encroachment from subsistence agriculture fields and development pressures including uranium exploration, and strongly encourage the Government of Tanzania to consider including this strategic corridor within the property.
e) Deterioration in management capacity
The State Party reports on the progress achieved in implementing the 2007/ 2008 mission recommendations, in particular through the on-going establishment of a new Wildlife Authority, the establishment of 8 Wildlife Management Areas around the property, the recruitment of 40 additional employees in February 2010, and that the procurement of 4 new vehicles. However, the State Party also acknowledges that several recommendations so far have not been implemented as a result of limited financial means. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that while some progress has been made, it has been insufficient to restore SGR’s management capacity. IUCN notes that it has received a number of reports concerning the property’s deteriorating management standards and increasing corruption, including insufficient capacity and funding for anti-poaching activities as noted in point d) above. IUCN also has received reports that the spread of invasive alien species is accelerating, including Mimosa pigra, Lantana camara and Pistia stratiotes.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that Decision 34 COM 7B.3welcomed the State Party’s intention to create an autonomous Wildlife Authority which will automatically reinstate revenue accrual and significantly increase the property’s human and financial resources. They wish to point out that the Authority has not yet been created and consider that in the mean time the Revenue Retention Scheme should be reinstated.
Given the State Party’s request for technical and financial management support, they recommend that the Government of Tanzania undertake a Management Effectiveness Evaluation for Selous Game Reserve, in line with the “Enhancing Our Heritage” methodology, with technical support from IUCN and encourage the State Party to request International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund to do so. This would also be an opportunity to convene a workshop to address the implementation of the 2007/ 2008 missions, as repeatedly requested by the Committee at its 33rd and 34th sessions.