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Published on 18 July 2011
The utterances of politicians in East Africa are legendary and legion, but the Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige, outdid himself when calling the UNESCO World Heritage Committee an "insignificant entity from which we (meaning the megalomaniac us, as in I) cannot take orders."
Maige was quoted in Tanzanian media following calls to his office making inquiries over a range of issues related to Tanzania’s clouded relationship with UNESCO, over a range of World Heritage sites like the Serengeti, the Selous Game Reserve, and the abrupt withdrawal of an application for recognition for the Eastern Arc Mountains and their forests, now thought to be the target for economic rape and plunder.
Other countries, like the Seychelles, are keen to see more sites recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites to promote greater global visibility, while Kenya recently celebrated the inclusion of Fort Jesus in Mombasa and of the alkaline Rift Valley Lakes of Elementaita, Nakuru, and Bogoria as a major event, helping them in the promotion of tourism. Not so in Tanzania it seems.
While bemoaning the lack of equal success in having tourists come to Tanzania as compared to say South Africa or even neighboring Kenya, in regard of the latter often rooted in sheer envy and long inbred sentiments continuously promoted by self-seeking politicians aiming to detract from their own abysmal performance records, such slaps in the face of globally-recognized institutions tasked by the UN to promote the recognition of culture and history, are only bound to raise yet more questions of competence and commitment to the promotion of tourism, which indeed could be an engine of economic growth in Tanzania.
Other sources literally accused the Tanzanian government of lying in regard to the planned uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve, pointing at the nonchalant comments made by the same minister in regard of dangers of uranium mining and the remaining deposits of mining aggregates left on site, which in other countries continue to dog administrations for decades now of how to deal with the fallout and clean up the environment.
The same sources pointed out that no environmental impact assessment was in place by any internationally-recognized institution or organization about the dangers of mining for this hugely radioactive material inside the game reserve, nor for the need of an access road network to the mining site, the establishment of workers camps and installation of machinery and plants, nor its social impact on communities living near the site, or vis-a-vis increased poaching of game.
Finally, contradicting the minister's earlier statement that UNESCO had "agreed," UNESCO issued a statement at the end of June following the latest committee session, saying that Tanzania’s World Heritage sites may yet be declared as "in danger" should any developments go ahead without observing all required regulations first.
And it is the designation of "in danger" or the loss of the UNESCO World Heritage site stamp of approval Tanzania’s tourism industry should be concerned about, as it would indeed throw the spanners into the proverbial works when it comes to successfully promoting the country as a safari destination with an environmental conscience.
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