24 May 2018

Tanzania: Stiegler's Gorge - Govt's Study Pledge Welcome

Photo: Panii/Wikipedia
Elephants in the Selous Game Reserve (file photo).

Parliament was on Tuesday the latest ground for spurring arguments for and against the planned mega power project along River Rufiji basin. MPs gave their passionate views on the 2.100MW Stiegler's Gorge project whose rollout is expected later in July this year.

The debate was a mix of both support and opposition to the project that has been on the cards for decades. The government now feels it was time to harness it to secure Tanzania's power sufficiency in line with President John Magufuli's vision for industrialisation.

Other than the MPs' arguments, local and foreign environmentalists have warned on the threats the power project poses to one of Africa's biggest game reserve area, the Selous, and the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people living on the downstream of the planned project. Critics say it's cheaper to pursue a long-lasting solution by using the massive gas discoveries.

But the case for the hydropower project has also been advanced, the biggest being the fact that the dam could be the panacea to the country's perennial power shortages while possibilities also exist that the country could export surplus electricity to neighbouring countries.

President Magufuli has also indicated that bringing the project to fruition will be a good legacy to honour the founding father of the nation Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who envisaged the same many years ago. Both of these arguments may be valid. However, what we should aspire as a nation is to find common ground to advance the country's long-term socio-economic interests.

The government's pledge to carry out an environmental assessment before moving forward with the project is, therefore, a welcome move that will help pacify those who fear the worst.

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