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WWF Expresses Deep Concern at Plans for Large-scale Logging in Selous Game Reserve

GLAND, Switzerland – The Tanzania Forest Service has closed a tender for the sale of over 2.6 million trees that would result in the large-scale logging inside Selous Game Reserve, one of Africa’s most important wildernesses areas and home to globally important populations of elephants, black rhinos, African wild dogs and hippos. 

This logging is designed to harvest the trees in the area that would be flooded if the proposed Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project goes ahead. It would remove trees in a 1,436km2 area in the heart of the Selous Game Reserve – a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982. 

The tender is in clear breach of Tanzanian law, as an Environmental Impact Assessment has not been completed, and encompasses an area described by UNESCO and IUCN as containing “the most important ecological elements of the reserve”. 

In response to the tender for large-scale logging in the Selous, Anthony Field, Global Campaign Manager for WWF International, said: 

“This tender directly threatens the Selous – an area of incredible ecological and economic importance. WWF urgently calls for completion of the necessary environmental assessments before any clearance activity on the ground can begin.”   

The Tanzania Forestry Service invited bids for the sale of standing trees that would result in large-scale logging of Selous Game Reserve on April 25, 2018. The tender closed on May 16, 2018. 

Field added: 

“If these contracts are awarded and carried out, it would devastate the Selous’ wildlife and halt any prospect of the Selous coming off the UNESCO ‘In Danger’ list. We again urge Tanzania’s government to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment on the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project that should look at a number of alternative, less harmful energy projects that could instead be pursued. If it goes ahead it risks the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people who live downstream. 

Plans to generate 2,100 MW of power from the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower dam have been pushed forward by Tanzania’s government in recent years despite concerns over its environmental and social impacts. Crucially, the legal process in Tanzania for building a hydropower dam has not been followed as no Strategic Environmental Assessment has been carried out, as stipulated in paragraph 105 of the Environmental Management Act 2004.

Earlier this year, the Director General of UNESCO wrote a letter expressing her concern about the irreversible damage the project could have on Selous. In their reactive monitoring mission report in 2017 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that the project is ‘fatally flawed’ because of its ecological impact. It called on the Government of Tanzania to ‘permanently abandon’ it.

A WWF commissioned analysis, published in July 2017, found that the proposed dam threatens both the Selous Game Reserve World Heritage site and the adjacent Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa Marine Ramsar Site.