THE National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) has made a familiarization tour to the eagerly awaited Stigler’s Gorge hydroelectric power project and promised compliance of all environmental precautions from ‘the very beginning’ of the mega project.
The tour which came hardly a month after President John Pombe Magufuli insisted that execution of the project was inevitable, NEMC and Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO) organised a tour of experts to the site.
Speaking to journalists here over the weekend, NEMC acting Director General, Dr Vedast Makota said the team of experts toured the site to inspect environmental safety issues.
“We jointly decided to tour the area in a bid to get ‘first hand’ information about the scheme and its implications on the Selous Game Reserve ecosystem,” Dr Makota said, noting that NEMC was optimistic that the project would be implemented safely without affecting the environment.
Dr Makota also pointed out that the tour meant a lot in making President John Magufuli’s dream a reality by laying down strategies and take measures that would allow for a smooth undertaking of the project which is expected to be constructed as soon as possible.
“We have come here to inspect and see if the issues of environmental security … because this is an important wildlife conservation area,” he said.
In another development, Dr Makota decried the tendency by people to encroach water sources, adding that NEMC would work with a task team formed by Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan to ensure that the Great Ruaha River wouldn’t dry.
“We should be aware that this project receives water from the Great Ruaha … so we will ensure that the team gets all the support ... to ensure there’s enough water to produce electricity,” he said.
NEMC director of Research and Environmental Impacts Assessment Dr Fadhila Khatib said apart from ensuring that environment safety matters were met, the tour was also aimed at advising the stakeholders on how to avoid environmental degradation before and after project implementation.
“We’ve met our obligation … as an authority responsible with the environmental conservation, we need to know what is being done and measures that have been taken to protect the environment … because we know this is a game reserve area,” she said.
She added that NEMC would “be following closely” to ensure their advice was followed. Earlier, NEMC Eastern Zone Environmental Co-ordinator, Mr Jaffari Chimgege said the tour had given them an opportunity to access the area’s natural resource base.
“We are the only people who know this project well … so we have come to see the area in its natural condition … in order to help the government implement its objectives,” Mr Chimgege said.
President Magufuli recently dismissed as groundless criticisms against the project’s impact on the environment, saying the mega scheme would cover just three per cent of Selous Game Reserve.