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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Uranium mining dangers downplayed, belittled by government officials with vested interests


Tanzanian officials continue to play down the dangers of the proposed
Uranium mining project inside the UNESCOs World Heritage Site Selous
Game Reserve, according to some experts consulted almost deliberately
endangering the health of local populations for the sole motive of
profits. They have been bought, that much is clear, and when they say,
like the Commissioner for Energy, that playing with Uranium is safe
they are misleading the public for the simple motive of profits. There
is a very serious risk of pollution, and the former Soviet Union is a
very good example for that, there they are struggling until today with
the mess and fall out of those Uranium mines, poisoned water sources
and poisoned soil said a regular conservation source from Dar es
Salaam while passing on the information overnight. The Tanzanian
government has applied to UNESCO to get permission to commence mining
in the reserve or else excavate the area earmarked for mining, but as
rivers flow through the proposed mining areas into the reserve and
then on to the Indian Ocean, fears are growing of contamination of the
water with devastating effects for people, wildlife and eventually
marine life, with the long term effects not possible to mitigate away.
There are however also other areas of the country where Uranium
deposits have been found and where the focus of environmental groups
has been less until now.

Development partners too are concerned that the portion of revenue
coming to the Tanzanian government seems outrageously low, confirming
doubts on the value of the deal or else suggesting that the true value
will go elsewhere, and your guess here is as good as mine.

Interesting enough were comments attributed to a senior staff of an
Uranium exploration company, who was subsequently quoted in the local
media warning of lasting liver damage to those drinking water which
has been in contact with Uranium with other health problems due to the
toxicity not fully explored at this stage.

While government in full mouthed statements heap praise on their
policies and regulations, it is often a sad fact that those are
trampled upon and discarded when money starts to flow as has often
been seen in other sectors across the economy, giving little
confidence that it would be any different here. NEMA officials
reportedly also decried the low capacity of monitoring and
enforcement, suggesting further that government would largely have to
rely on data by the mining companies, which could easily be doctored
or present it such a way as to suggest minimum risks, many of which
would only become apparent in the longer term.

Stakeholders operating into the Selous have also expressed concern
over the ongoing negative publicity surrounding Africa largest game
reserve, with one, on condition of anonymity saying: We are worried
about this controversy. Tourists are easily put off and they can now
find on their computers anything you people write and expose. Like
your story about Stieglers Gorge has raised a lot of questions
overseas and government should come out and make a statement that they
will leave the gorge intact and not built a power plant there. The
same for mining of Uranium. There are a lot of issues with poaching
and government should concentrate on that, to open up the Selous into
the distant unexplored places so that more tented camps can be put up,
more visitors can come in and sustainable revenue can create jobs and
earn us Forex. That is the way forward for us. Spoken with the heart
of a true conservationist. Watch this space.

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