Tanzania - Tanzanian President John Magufuli has insisted that the hydropower project in the Selous Game Reserve must be implemented as planned, brushing aside protests by conservationists.
Opening the 41st Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF), the President said he would not be detracted by protests by environmentalists.
He said the hydropower dam project at the Stiegler's Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Africa, will produce 2,100 megawatts which will effectively end power shortage in the country, the second largest economy in the east African region. Tanzania currently has a huge power deficit with just 1,400 megawatts of installed grid capacity.
"In implementing this project we will not listen to concerns raised by conservationists because the Selous is in Tanzania and we have the authority to decide what to do with it," said Magufuli.
He said the hydropower project, which has been delayed for many years, will only cover 1,350 square kilometres out of the game reserve's 50,000 square kilometres.
"I don't see any problem to produce such a huge amount of power from a small piece of the game reserve," said Magufuli.
He said the project, when completed, will have a positive impact to the environment because the dam will provide water to animals in the game reserve and fishing activities will increase.
Magufuli added that the project will also promote irrigation farming to poor communities living near the Selous Game Reserve.
"Let me state that come rain or sun, the hydropower project will be implemented as planned," said the president, adding that the construction of the project will be done through local financing.
Magufuli said the tender for the construction of the project will be announced soon, calling on development partners to support the project.
"I call upon other countries through their ambassadors and investors to support this development project," appealed Magufuli.
On Tuesday, President Magufuli held talks with hydropower generation experts to see how the Stiegler's Gorge hydropower project could be hastened.
Conservationists have expressed worries that the hydropower project, and gas and mining projects planned in or near the reserve were likely to affect the biodiversity of the game reserve.
The Selous Game Reserve, named a World Heritage Site in 1982, was home to one of the greatest concentrations of African elephants on the continent.
Nearly 110,000 elephants once roamed the savannas, wetlands and forests of Selous, but now only about 15,000 remain in the ecosystem, according to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report.
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