When founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere described the principle socio-economic structure of a neighboring country as a “Man eats Man Society,” he probably did not expect that in his very own country of Tanzania a “Man eats Nature Society” would eventually emerge.
There are numerous examples of harebrained schemes in place, many promoted by none other than the country’s current President Jakaya Kikwete – whom on this occasion I wish a speedy and full recovery from a medical condition which necessitated an operation at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital last week – which are bound to impact heavily on Tanzania’s environment and are going to make many big dents in the country’s assertion that conservation remains at the heart of its domestic policies.
Examples aplenty were given here in the past, ranging from the proposed Serengeti Highway to the planned deep water port in Mwambani near Tanga, set right in the center of the Coelacanth Marine National Park where those prehistoric fish can be found, one of the few places in the world.
In between is the soda ash extraction plant project in the mud flats of Lake Natron, the only breeding site in East Africa for the flamingo colonies; the taking off the list of the Eastern Arc Mountains which were to become a UNESCO World Heritage site – again on instruction by President Kikwete who bowed to mining and logging interests it seems; the Uranium mining in the Selous; and the proposed hydroelectric dam and power plant at Stiegler’s Gorge, right in the heart of the main tourism zone of the world’s largest game reserve.
A recent trend off the shoreline, however, has become equally alarming as dynamite fishing has spread its ugly wings along the coast, in the process decimating often immature fish and damaging the reefs which are of key importance in preventing erosion along the beaches.
Latest reports indicate that several serious injuries were reported of dynamite fishers in the area around Tanga and at least one of them died, a stark reminder of the dangers, not only to the marine environment but also the individual involved in the criminal behaviors, as this form of fishing has been outlawed and banned but is hardly ever enforced.
“In January 2012, the Tanga Tourism Network Association (Tatona) wrote a letter to Tanga Regional Commissioner Chiku Galawa, entitled: Daily rampant dynamite fishing along the Tanga coast. In its letter, the association expressed concern over the situation that it said was now getting totally out of control, ‘and every day destroys the very base of not only our business, but also the livelihood of millions of poor Tanzanians.’
“’In addition, this is now even seriously tarnishing the international image and reputation of Tanzania, in the tourism industry and in the conservation world,’ said the letter seen by The Citizen. ‘The use of explosives for fishing is not known in the neighboring countries of Kenya and Mozambique that also have long coast lines. For example, it is known, that in Kenya, the possession, trade, and use of explosives is treated as a treasonable offense that attracts the highest penalties.’