IN her article, “President Magufuli: Stop That Dam’’ published on the Globalist line Environmental magazine, on 2nd February, 2019. Ms Marrita Koch-Weser, who identifies herself as an anthropologist, environmentalist and social entrepreneur, blatantly calls for Tanzania’s President to stop construction of the dam at Rufiji River.
First and foremost, let the author of the article be informed that the Rufiji Hydropower Dam (in this case referred to as Stiegler’s Gorge Dam) is the topmost priority when it comes to issues of enhancing energy accessibility and affordability.
Under the leadership of President John Pombe Magufuli. For this reason, the government will go ahead with its plan as already decided. In this context, we call President Magufuli to Speed up construction of the dam and not otherwise.
Even though this article does not derail our current and well thought plan on the dam, we would like to clarify some of the misconception and distracting views embedded in the author’s ill-willed article.
Secondly, let the author and global public be informed that the idea of constructing a hydropower dam was well enshrined in the submission and request by the United Republic Tanzania in 1982 to include Selous Game Reserve in the UNESCO World Sites list.
Thus, construction of the dam is neither a new idea to the country nor to the UNESCO World Heritage Site arena. It is without doubt that, the power sector plays a pivotal role in the production and processing of agricultural, industrial and other sectors of the economy.
The proposed hydropower project will increase electricity in the national grid which will be supplied in different parts of country. Currently, most Tanzania (over 80 per cent) still depends on biomass energy for cooking, and thus energy needs are one of the key drivers of deforestation.
Among others, the dam is expected to foster the following immediate benefits:
• Improve significantly electricity service and coverage through the addition of new power generation, transmission and distribution capacity, as well as through much needed reinforcement of the existing network. Increased power generation will increase investment and economic activity to businesses and communities by improving the reliability and affordability of quality of electric power. The power plant project is expected help to boost significantly the industrialization of Tanzania.
• Increased opportunity for agro-processing/value addition in the country • Enhance flood control in the Lower Rufiji Floodplain: One of the objectives of the Rufiji (Stiegler’s Gorge) hydropower project is to control damaging floods to the crop fields, settlements and properties in the Lower Rufiji floodplain.
• Enhance development of floodplain irrigation agriculture: Another objective of the RHP, is to release water from the reservoir of such magnitude that the floodplain areas are adequately irrigated. Currently, uncontrolled floods lead to loss of farmer’s crops and livelihood on the downstream.
• Enhance floodplain fisheries: It is generally assumed that in a tropical flood plain environment the fish protein production per unit area is very high because of the seasonal change in water levels caused by considerable changes in annual flooding, which provide the fish with great amount of food (insects, debris and minerals).
Further, another simply seemingly repeat of the nonsense utterance by the author to argue that Presidents of countries love to see their name attached to grand infrastructure projects, to ensure that they will be remembered by generations to come.
Even though she did not state from which nationality she belongs, being from the north there are so many infrastructures that are attached to their leaders name, be in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Such sweeping statement adds no value to grant stoppage of the dam construction. A UNESCO World Heritage Site The author acknowledges that since 1982, Selous has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a treasure of “Outstanding Universal V alue” under the UNESCO Convention, but she does not recall that it is the Government of the United Tanzania that requested such inclusion which included potential dam construction in future. I would argue that she revisits Tanzania on the matter before putting a pen to paper again on the same issue.
Indeed, Tanzania is certain that, the proposed hydropower project in Selous Game Reserve will not affect universal outstanding values that are centered on two major criteria i.e. a) Criterion (ix)– The Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in Africa, and Criterion (x)-The reserve has a higher density and diversity of species than any other Miombo woodland area in the world. Definitely, the proposed project will not significantly affect biodiversity in the area and will only cover about 1.8 per cent out of the total 50 hectares of the total Selous Game Reserve.
Moreover, the author lists some agencies that have spoken against the project but ignores millions Tanzanians who have spoken in favour of the project given its potential benefits in various aspects.
However, the author further underscores the point that the Selous Game Reserve is currently difficult to access due to bad and poor roads.
Thus, construction of the dam will definitely improve access road and render it accessible to many Tanzanians to visit the game reserve, hence improve tourism.
Roads leading Selous Game Reserve will be improved and be passable throughout the year compared to the current situation. Currently, only few Tanzanians and foreign tourists can access due to poor roads.
Furthermore, while obvious biased the project will use existing RUBADA camps, which have been in existence for long time, the author purports that the worker’s camp is proposed at a new site.
In fact, the project will only renovate existing structures which have been there since1980s. Ample alternative energy generation options Tanzania’s economic growth and changes in economic policies has raised great demand for electrical power in the country.
The current power generation in Tanzania is about 1,537MW and by 2020 the Country is expected to reach 5,000MW generation capacity.
At the expected current trend in average annual GDP growth of between 6 and 8 percent for the coming 10 years, the expected national demand of 5000MW by 2025 cannot be achieved.
Such imbalance needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Presently, Tanzania’s power sources include hydro, natural gas, coal, uranium, wind, geothermal, biomass, solar, tidal and waves.
* Continues tomorrow
The writer is a keen reader of the ‘Daily News’