Conservationists are urging the Tanzanian government to stop plans to build a hydropower dam in the country’s Selous Game Reserve, saying the project could cause severe damage to the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is already threatened by widespread poaching.

The United Nations agency charged with protecting the world’s heritage, UNESCO, placed Selous Game Reserve on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2014.

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli is reported to have said that the Stiegler’s Gorge dam will be constructed “come rain, come sun.”

The international conservation organisation WWF has, in a report, said that the hydropower dam threatens an important wetland as well as the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people who depend on fishing downstream.

WWF has launched an advocacy campaign that urges the Tanzanian government to protect Selous and to strengthen wildlife management in both the reserve and surrounding areas.

According to WWF, Selous has lost 90 percent of its elephants and nearly all of its critically endangered black rhinos to poachers since becoming a World Heritage site. Industrial projects have made it easier for poachers to access the park and to traffic illegal ivory.

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John Nyaga
John Nyaga is the editor of Swara magazine, a publication of the East African Wild Life Society.