Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Constant Debate About Contentious Issues Promotes Knowledge

Since gas became the commodity of now, and the near future, it was expected that hardly,would politicians and activists withdraw into resigned silence.

Recently, there was demonstration by residents of Mtwara Urban who were against the move to construct the 532 km gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es salaam.

Subsequently,some opposition politicians issued statements to contribute to the debate.

The Minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof Sospeter Muhongo also issued a statement noting that the government has good plans that would benefit all Tanzanians from the natural gas drilled in the country.

He noted that the government has a good plan for Mtwara region where areas for industrial parks or estates have been earmarked where fertilizer, liquefied natural gas and petrochemicals industries will be built.

"These industries will give a face-lift to Mtwara harbour and create employment to people in the area and this is important to the people of the area as it will help transform economy," he said. Prof Muhongo noted further that out of the 35 cubic feet of natural gas discovered so far in the country, 78 per cent is found in the Indian Ocean deep sea of which no region can claim its belongingness but it is instead belongs to the nation.

"It is wrong to perceive that Mtwara and Lindi produces much of the natural gas discovered so far, regions boundaries stretches up to 12 nautical miles from the shoreline and therefore gas found on Mtwara Region's soil is only 14 per cent and Lindi is only 7 per cent while Coast accounts for 1 per cent," he said. Yours trully would sugest that this is not a bad debate.

Constant conversation and debate about a contentious issue promotes the spread of knowledge. When any new idea is suggested, it is initially rejected, then debated, later accommodated and, sometimes, finally accepted.

This is what we learn from Galileo, when he first suggested that the world is round; or from Charles Darwin, when he published his theory of evolution. In both cases, their findings produced condemnation with the church leading the attack. After heated debate, people began to listen more, learn and understand.

Today, most enlightened people believe the world is round. It is for this reason that although some discussants may have subjective motivation, the objective outcome of their actionsmay be good for the gas sector debate in the country. Many people miss this critical part of the democratic process i.e. that society's beliefs do not change overnight.

There is a time lag between when debate begins and when society begins to change its misunderstanding.. Back to the Ministry's response, in his statement last week, Prof Muhongo said, "These industries will give a facelift to Mtwara harbour and create employment to people in the area and this is important to the people of the area as it will help transform economy," he said.

Prof Muhongo noted further that out of the 35 cubic feet of natural gas discovered so far in the country, 78 per cent is found in the Indian Ocean deep sea of which no region can claim its belongingness but it is instead belongs to the nation.

"It is wrong to perceive that Mtwara and Lindi produces much of the natural gas discovered so far, regions boundaries stretches up to 12 nautical miles from the shoreline and therefore gas found on Mtwara Region's soil is only 14 per cent and Lindi is only 7 per cent while Coast accounts for 1 per cent," he said.

Prof Muhongo added that natural gas has been discovered in sedimentary rocks which are aged between 119.9 and 23.03 million years ago and that the rocks are too old to the extent that neither the current generation nor the previous can claim exclusive ownership.

He added that the government has also earmarked a special area in Mtwara Region which will be made a Freeport Zone to allow for improved business conditions in the area. "The pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam will be installed with tie-offs in Mtwara, Lindi, Kilwa and Mkuranga in a bid to ensure that these towns are able to access the natural gas whenever it is needed in future," he said.

He said that the decision to build the pipeline to Dar es Salaam was an economical one as most of the electricity production facilities are located in Dar es Salaam and moreover most of the industrial activities are located in the city which contributes up to 80 per cent of revenue per annum.

"In this endeavor we are also been guided by our development plan which indicates that by 2015 we should be able to produce 2780MW and thus by bringing natural gas to Dar es salaam over 990MW will be produced and other 520MW will be produced at Somanga Fungu in Lindi Region," he said.

Prof Muhongo noted that Mtwara Region does not have a strong economy that can utilize the gas intended to be transported to Dar es Salaam and therefore it was illogical to claim that it should not be taken out of the region.

"Natural gas power production facilities installed at Mtwara town has a capacity of producing up to 18MW and the two regions of Mtwara and Lindi have so far managed to make a maximum use of 12MW only which shows little demand," he said.

He reiterated the statement issued by President Jakaya Kikwite last week that any natural resource discovered in the country will be used to benefit the whole country as so has been since time immemorial. In various interviews with Daily News' last week, Academicians and opposition party politicians supported the government's policy of equitable distribution of natural resources to benefit all Tanzanians, including the natural gas that has been discovered in Mtwara region.

They however, called for more public education for residents of Mtwara and Lindi in order for them to understand the benefits of the proposed construction of natural gas pipelines from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam. They were responding to the recent demonstration by residents of Mtwara Municipality who were opposing the government's project and the comments made by the government on the matter.

The Chairman of NCCR Mageuzi,Mr James Mbatia,said that demanding exclusive rights to benefit from natural resources found in any region of this country will jeopardize the country's peace. "We support the policy that the whole nation should benefit from any natural resources found in any part of this country and we need a smooth undertaking of exploration works in any part of this country where minerals are found," he said.

Mr Mbatia, who is also a nominated MP, wondered why people were complaining while the Minister for Energy and Minerals, "If we allow division of our country on the lines of natural resources, we will be moving towards a black future," he said.

Mr Mbatia noted that construction of a pipeline to Dar es Salaam for purposes of producing low cost electricity was a noble idea but added that people of Mtwara needs to be involved massively from primary stages. He called on the government to find a forum with the people of Mtwara to articulate on how the gas found there will benefit them.

They should also be asked to speak out on what they want their government to do for them. A University of Dar es Salaam Senior Lecturer, Dr Benson Bana, said the pipeline construction to Dar es Salaam was inevitable to increase national revenue from the80 per cent now collected in the city for the benefit of the whole country.

He said that politicians who have been backing demonstrator should be condemned as that was an act of seeking cheap politics. "All the natural resources available in the country, gas, diamonds, gold and oil among others belong to Tanzania and should benefit all Tanzanians," he stressed.

He said that politicians were mostly responsible for what happened in Mtwara recently and that the move to mobilize people to demonstrate in the streets to oppose government's plans for country's development was as bad as an act of treason. Most of the readers of this newspaper who posted their comments in the newspaper online edition commended the government plan.

"Those who oppose the project should be treated as enemies of the nation. This is a project meant to liberate the country economically once and for all. The government should ignore them and push the project forward," commented one

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