On 2 February 2012, the State Party submitted a concise report on the state of conservation of the property. The report provides an overview of the progress achieved in the implementation of the Committee’s decision adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011).
a) Finalize the creation of the autonomous Wildlife Authority and reinstate the Revenue Retention Scheme
The State Party notes that a consulting firm was engaged to facilitate the establishment of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA). This process is now in its final stages. The State Party notes that once TAWA becomes operational, the revenue retention scheme will automatically be reinstated. No timeline for the finalization of the establishment of TAWA is provided.
b) Abandon plans for the different development projects which are incompatible with the World Heritage status of the property, in particular the Stiegler’s Gorge dam, uranium mining and oil exploration inside the property
The State Party expresses its awareness that energy-related developments and their consequences may be incompatible with World Heritage status as they may impact negatively on the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties. It emphasizes that any proposed development project within the property will undergo proper scrutiny as per the Convention and its Operational Guidelines before being allowed to proceed. The State Party notes that the Stiegler’s Gorge dam has been earmarked a major source of hydropower to tackle the on-going power crisis in Tanzania, but that the project is still at the planning stage and that no permit for the commencement of the project has yet been granted. The State Party states that no permit will be granted without a properly conducted Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and prior clearance from the World Heritage Committee.
However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note recent media reports that the Minister of Energy and Minerals announced that the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project will commence in July 2012, and is expected to be commissioned by end 2015. These reports note that the Brazil based company Odebrecht Construction International has already been contracted to implement the project, and that banks based in Brazil will provide part of the required funding. According to the Director General of the Rufiji Basin Development Authority (RUBADA), once filled, the reservoir will cover 1,200 km2, or 120,000 ha within the property. This represents 2.4% of the entire property, including two key areas for rhinoceros and key habitat for several other species. Furthermore, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that that the construction of the dam would open up a previously poorly accessible area of the property, which would likely result in secondary impacts such as poaching and illegal resource use.
c) Ensure that the design of the Kidunda dam will not affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and avoid flooding part of the property or key wildlife areas on its boundaries
The State Party notes that the proposed Kidunda dam on the edge of the northern sector of the property is considered a major solution to domestic water shortages in many areas of the country. The report stated that the initial stage of the ESIA for this project is currently in progress and that the report of this initial stage is under review by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. The State Party notes that a detailed ESIA will be prepared and incorporate stakeholder recommendations which will be taken into account in the approval process.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that a previous ESIA, dated March 2008 and reviewed by the 2008 World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission shows that the dam will impact on ecological systems, may disrupt wildlife corridors, affect reproductive behaviour of aquatic organisms, and impact negatively on other wetland habitats. The ESIA also notes that the dam was redesigned in order to minimize (but not eliminate) impacts on the property and the Gonabis plain, which, according to a 2005 report by the German development cooperation (GIZ), is an important buffer zone for the property and provides habitat for the highest densities of wildebeest, zebras, giraffes and other large herbivores in the whole Selous ecosystem. This report suggests that endangered species such as wild dog, cheetah and rhino are also found in or near the affected area. The 2008 ESIA report also states that the proposed reservoir of 27 km2 will only yield 60 m3 and that a much larger dam covering at least 43 km2 would be necessary to provide the planned 150 m3 capacity, but did not investigate the impacts of this alternative. The new ESIA which is currently under preparation is therefore for a much larger dam and therefore likely to have even more important impacts on the OUV of the property.
d) Enact specific legislation to prohibit prospecting and mining within Selous Game Reserve on the basis of its World Heritage status
The State Party notes that the recent legislative changes that permit mining in Game Reserves countrywide were made in support of development to improve the economy to meet the 2025 Millenium Development Goals (MDG). Considering that mining and mineral resources in Tanzania are among the major pillars for economic growth, the State Party states it has put in place several environmental laws and regulations to regulate major developments within protected areas, including the property. However, no details are provided on what these entail.
e) Develop and implement an emergency plan to strengthen anti-poaching activities in the property in order to cope with the alarming increase in poaching
The State Party reports on its efforts to strengthen anti-poaching and monitoring activities, including through increased joint anti-poaching operations with other law enforcement intitutions, and the implementation of the Tanzania Elephant Management Plan 2010-2015 (TEMP). In addition, 39 new staff have been hired and three new patrol vehicles were purchased to strengthen the Ranger Force, and there are plans for purchasing a helicopter for aerial surveillance in 2012. Furthermore, guidelines for the establishment of a Wildlife Protection Unit (WPU), which will involve all wildlife institutions, have been prepared and are currently awaiting ministerial approval. The State Party is also exploring the use of Geo-Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing to combat poaching.
The TEMP 2010-2015 notes a marked decline in the Selous elephant population, from 50-70,000 in 2006 to 38,975 in 2009. It recognizes that there is firm evidence that illegal killing of elephants in the Selous Ecosystem has increased in recent years: a more than threefold increase in elephant carcasses detected was observed between 2006 and 2008. The TEMP states that an important factor influencing the protection of the elephant population in the property is a marked decrease in funding, as a result of the national budget reductions in 2004, which led to the discontinuation of the Revenue Retention Scheme and a 2 million US dollar reduction in revenue for the property. Recent media reports (January 2012) note that the President of Tanzania, upon reviewing the results of the 2009 survey, ordered an investigation to establish why the number of elephants in the property has been decreasing in recent years.
f) Revise and resubmit the Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed Mkuju River uranium mine in line with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommendations prior to granting exploitation permits
From 24 October to 1 November 2011, an advisory mission of independent experts recommended by IUCN visited the property, which undertook a review of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mkuju River uranium mining project (MRP). Based on the review, the State Party submitted a revised EIS to the World Heritage Centre on 31 January 2012. To date, no exploitation permits have been granted. On 31 January 2012, the State Party also submitted a revised proposal for a minor boundary modification for the excision of 41,286 ha of land from the property to accommodate the proposed uranium mine, as well as a buffer zone. This proposal has been evaluated by IUCN, and is discussed further in Document WHC-12/36.COM/INF.8B2. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reciterate that the current proposal for a mine inside the property is incompatible with its World Heritage status, in line with the established position of the World Heritage Committee. IUCN notes that information received from stakeholders suggests that an illegal road has been partly constructed through the Undendeule Forest, which is proposed by the State Party for addition to the property as partial compensation for the development of the proposed mine.
g) Other conservation issues – the Selous-Niassa Corridor, oil exploration
In its report on the state of conservation of the property, the State Party acknowledges that the Selous-Niassa Corridor is a fundamental part of the Selous Ecosystem and notes that wildlife corridors have legal recognition under the Wildlife Act of 2009. The State Party provides a concise list of measures taken to protect the Selous-Niassa Corridor. These include: i) land use planning and capacity building among communities within the corridor in order to achieve best land use practice and protection of the environment, ii) alternative livelihood projects, improvement of infrastructure and training of Village Scouts for the management of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), iii) establishment of five WMAs to date within the Selous-Niassa Corridor, where natural resources are managed by local people, and iv) international cooperation with Mozambique to enhance conservation within the corridor. The State Party also notes that wildlife corridors throughout the country are being identified and delineated, after which guidelines will be developed, although it is not clear what type of guidelines are envisaged.
In relation to oil exploration within the property boundaries, the State Party notes that it is pursuing a sustainable development approach, and will base its decisions on ESIA reports and secure a thorough implementation of the proposed mitigation measures on identified impacts. A recent media article advises that Dominion Petroleum relinquished the oil production sharing agreement for Selous, which it had signed with Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation more than ten years ago. However, the State Party did not mention this in its report, nor has it made a commitment to not permit any oil exploration within the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall the Committee’s established position that oil exploration and exploitation is not compatible with World Heritage status.