On 17 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides some information on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2007 World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission as well as some supplementary information requested by the 2008 monitoring mission.
From 23 to 30 November 2008, a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN mission visited the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008). The mission was a follow up to the earlier mission undertaken in 2007, which, because of logistical constraints, had only been able to visit the part of the property north of the Rufiji river, which is open to photographic tourism. At its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007), the World Heritage Committee therefore recommended that a further monitoring mission be organized to focus on the area south of the Rufiji river, open to regulated sports hunting. This mission looked into the effectiveness of management of wildlife populations as well as a number of key threats and conservation issues, in particular the on-going uranium prospecting within the Selous Game Reserve (SGR) and in the wildlife corridor, proposed oil and gas exploration and exploitation within the property, and progress towards implementation of the recommendations of the 2007 monitoring mission, especially the recommendation requesting the State Party to reinstate the Revenue Retention Scheme. The mission report and its recommendations are available online (http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/33COM/documents/) The main conclusions and recommendations are summarized below.
On the basis of the information gathered, the mission concluded that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is currently being maintained. However, monitoring of its state of conservation and integrity is being hampered as no Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV) is currently available for the property. To assist the State Party, the mission team prepared a draft SOUV, based on the material available in the Nomination file and the original IUCN evaluation, as well as other relevant scientific data available on the property. This draft is annexed to the mission report and was also presented in a training workshop for periodic reporting in Africa on developing SOUVs, held in Dar es Salaam in early March 2009.
The mission expressed concern regarding a number of on-going or planned activities within the property, which are not compatible with its World Heritage status. These include on-going uranium exploration activities, planned oil and gas exploration, and proposed dams. The mission noted that the State Party had not informed the World Heritage Committee of these activities and had not provided information on their expected impact on the values and integrity of the property, as required under Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.
The mission was able to visit a uranium exploration concession on the southern boundary of SGR, of which 75 km2 is located with the property. The mission concluded that while the on going activities are having a clear impact on the local environment, these impacts are not irreversible and ecological restoration will be possible. The mission also noted that mining is incompatible with inscription on the World Heritage List and that this is a clear policy position of the World Heritage Committee.
During the mission, the team discussed with the State Party whether this conflict between mining and World Heritage could be resolved through a change in the boundaries of the property. Given the relative limited size of the area under consideration compared to the extremely large size of the property, and the possibility to provide similar compensatory habitat through the inclusion of larger additional areas to the property, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that it is for the State Party to evaluate if such a change in boundaries could be proposed. This would require a thorough evaluation of the biological values of the areas involved and a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the impacts of the mining activity on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The mission team recommended that the optimal boundaries of the World Heritage property should be defined in the context of the overall Selous ecosystem. It will also be necessary for the State Party to demonstrate through a proper EIA process that all mining activities in the immediate vicinity of the property will have no significant impact on its values and integrity of the property.
IUCN notes that the boundaries of World Heritage properties should not be modified with the primary objective of facilitating mining, as this would not be in line with the “No-go” commitment to mining in World Heritage properties.
The mission team was informed that the Government of Tanzania in 2005 and 2006 attributed two exploration concession blocks for oil and gas, to two companies, Dominion Oil and Gas and Heritage Oil. These concession blocks cover almost the entire property (a map is available in the mission report). So far, the Wildlife Division, in charge of the management of the property, has not granted permission to start the exploration activities in the property but continues to be under heavy pressure from the Ministry of Mines and Energy to give the clearance. Earlier oil exploration activities in the 1980s in SGR had a significant negative impact on the integrity and values of the property, with cut lines still clearly visible today. Their implementation also coincided with a sharp increase in poaching and a dramatic decline in wildlife populations, in particular elephants.
The mission also looked into the issue of the Kidunda dam. This dam is planned to meet increasing water demand for the capital Dar-es-Salaam. The mission was informed that the original proposal for a 9 billion m3 dam, which would have permanently inundated an important area of SGR, had been scaled down significantly and that the current proposed design for a 150 million m3 reservoir would result in the permanent flooding of 2 km2 of the property. The mission team was able to obtain a copy of the summary of the EIA, which concludes that the impact on property will be limited and that the reservoir will not significantly disrupt wildlife migration routes. The EIA proposes to de-gazette the 2 km2 area that will be inundated from SGR. The mission noted that this will require the State Party to request a boundary change of the property. However, the EIA also reported that the current design will fall short of the required 150 million m3, but only have a capacity of 60 million m3. It therefore seems likely that the design will have to be reviewed, with any new design requiring a new EIA. The mission recommends that if the design is to be reviewed, alternative options outside the property should be given priority.
The mission did not receive new information on plans for a hydroelectric dam in Stiegler’s Gorge, inside the property. This dam project has been under consideration for a long time but the mission was unable to confirm reports that the project is again under consideration. On the issue of the Tunduru-Songea road, the mission was informed that it is situated 60 km south of the property and therefore will not impact on the property. The mission was also informed that measures have been taken to ensure that the wildlife corridor to the Niassa Game Reserve in Mozambique is maintained, although no detailed assessment of this was done by the mission.
With regard to the question of the effective management of wildlife populations, the mission noted that the hunting industry plays a indispensable role in the management of the property, and its surrounding buffer zones, through the development of infrastructure, patrolling of hunting blocks, provision of information on wildlife and human activities, and the generation of significant amounts of income for the Government of Tanzania, local communities and potentially for the management of the property. The mission considers that the future management of hunting requires a number of improvements to ensure sustainable management of the wildlife resources. The mission further concluded that in spite of the fact that the legal framework for community management of wildlife resources has been created a decade ago, examples of successful community based wildlife management around property remain rare. The mission report includes a number of concrete recommendations on improving wildlife management and monitoring, which are also integrated into the draft decision. The mission reviewed the results of the different wildlife surveys that have taken place since the inscription of the property and noted with concern that, despite the recent increases in the Selous elephant population, significant declines were reported for several other wildlife species during the 2006 aerial survey. However several people met by the mission suggested that this may be related to technical problems with the set up and implementation of the survey, rather than real population declines. The mission team received reports from different stakeholders that poaching pressure is again on the increase, in particular elephant poaching. Survey results clearly show that the elephant population is stable and there is no evidence that the reported poaching incidents are as yet having a negative impact on the overall population. However, it is important for the State Party to react decisively to indications of increasing poaching pressure to avoid a future negative impact on the elephant populations.
While limited information was provided during the mission on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2007 mission, the State Party report did provide some information on this. The most important impediment to ensure proper management of the property and the implementation of the recommendations continues to be the lack of sufficient funding. This is mainly due to the interruption of the Revenue Retention Scheme since 2004, which ensured a 50% retention of revenue accrued from tourism and hunting. In addition, SGR has been receiving less donor support, in particular as a result of the termination of the GTZ project which supported the rehabilitation of the Reserve. This is resulting in a reduced management capacity of the Wildlife Division, which is lacking human and financial resources, equipment and infrastructure at the time outside pressures seem again on the increase. Senior staff of the Wildlife Division and the Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism informed the mission that discussions are underway with the Ministry of Finance to restore the Revenue Retention Scheme.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned with the different ongoing and planned activities inside the property which are incompatible with its World Heritage status. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN strongly recommend that the Government of Tanzania makes a clear commitment to stop on-going activities and to not to allow any new proposed developments and to comply with the requirements of the Operational Guidelines. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that any decision to allow for oil exploration inside the property, would present a case for possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in conformity with the Operational Guidelines. While satisfied with the assessment of the mission that the Outstanding Universal Value of property continues to be maintained, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned that the capacity of the Wildlife Division to manage the property is decreasing, mainly as a result of insufficient financial resources, at the time when pressures such as poaching are increasing again.