How proposed port project will wipe out

Publication Type:

Newspaper Article



Guardian (2010)


Plans by the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) to develop a multi-billion
dollar deep water port at Mwambani Bay in Tanga Region are raising more
human and environmental question marks than answers. On the human face of
the controversial project, it is posing a threat to the livelihoods of more
than 5,000 poor locals and fishermen in the Mwambani Bay area. Already
hundreds of thousands of poor farmers and fishers have been evicted from
the project area, a move that TPA has taken even before undertaking an
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The removal of the poor farmers and
fishers from villages around Mwambani Bay before undertaking the EIA means
that TPA has not taken into consideration the outcome of the EIA of the

In other words, come rain or sun, TPA will proceed to develop the port
regardless of the outcome of the EIA, which is yet to be undertaken. Will
the evictees be allowed to settle back to their villages if the EIA rejects
to give TPA the nod for the project? "It is simply against the law to
proceed with evictions for a project that has not had an Environmental
Impact Assessment yet," says an environmental expert employed by the

On the environmental side, the envisaged huge port project will pose a
threat to the survival of the Coelacanth, the world's oldest and most
enigmatic fish.
Long thought extinct, the Coelacanth came back from the dead when one was
found off South Africa in 1938. Since then colonies of the species, which
is older than any land mammal and lived in the sea before the era of the
dinosaurs, have been found off the Comoro islands, Tanzania and elsewhere.

In accordance with the Convention on International Trade of Endangered
Species (CITES) signed by Tanzania, the Coelacanth was added to Appendix I
(threatened with extinction) in 1989. The treaty forbids international
trade of endangered species for commercial purposes and regulates all
trade, including sending specimens to museums. The first officially
recorded catch in Tanzania of the Coelacanth scientifically known as
Latimeria chalumnae was made in September 2003 and generated massive
national and international interest from scientists, environmentalists, and
the emerging Tanzanian marine tourism industry. Since then, more than 80
captures of Coelacanths have been reported by fishers from Kigombe,
Mwarongo and Mwambani villages south of Tanga, and in Mtwara, Lindi, Kilwa,
northern Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.

Most of the Coelacanths were caught accidentally in deep-set shark gill
nets, says a Tanzanian marine scientist currently working with an
international organization based in South Africa. "This is the greatest
number of Coelacanths caught in the shortest time anywhere in the world,
suggesting that the species is under new and considerable pressure in
Tanzania, and is in critical need of protection," he says. Following these
"new discoveries" in July 2006, President Jakaya Kikwete directed relevant
authorities to take immediate measures to protect the Coelacanth.

The authorities heeded the directive by starting plans to establish a
Marine Protected Area (MPA) for the species that included Mwambani Bay and
all the areas from north of Yambe Island to south of Karange Island in
Tanga Region, where they have been found. For their protection, the
Tanzanian government decided to create a marine park along the Tanga south
coast, and on August 28, 2009, the Minister for Livestock Development and
Fisheries, Dr John Pombe Magufuli, gazetted an area stretching from Tanga
Bay outwards up to the fishing village of Kigombe. The park also includes
Toten Island, Mwambani Bay and the Yambe and Karange Islands, where most of
the Coelacanths have been found so far, according to a notice published in
the government gazette.

A management plan designating zones of protection and multiple uses is now
in place and the plan will hopefully introduce sustainable fishing
techniques in the area, says a researcher with the Tanzania Fisheries
Research Institute (TAFIRI). In preparation for the plan, a joint research
expedition was organised by the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme
(ACEP) in October 2007, with scientists from South Africa, Tanzania and
Japan, operating from a South African research vessel called Algoa. As part
of the ACEP expedition, scientists from the Aquamarine Fukushima Aquarium,
Japan, took video footage of living Coelacanths using a Remote Operating
Vehicle (ROV) that dived over 14 days mainly in 100-250m depth south of
Tanga. Coelacanths were encountered on only six occasions. Although a total
of 58 ROV dives were conducted over a large area from Yambe Island to South
Head Reef, all Coelacanths sightings were made within narrow stretch
seawards of Karange Island that borders Mwambani Bay.

Marine scientists comment that a full population survey of the Coelacanths
around Tanga is now needed with the help of more sophisticated technology,
as has been done in the Comoros for over 20 years. Only a submarine vessel
with researchers on board would be capable of tagging the living
Coelacanths, in order to find the underwater caves where they gather in
daytime, and count the fishes and trace their movements, say the
scientists, adding: "This knowledge is needed for protection of these sites
from the shark nets that have so dangerously decimated the population."

Chikambi Rumisha, former Manager of Marine Parks and Reserves Unit (MPRU),
and member of the Tanzanian National Management Committee of the African
Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP) comments that the high rate of
capture of this rare and endangered fish was alarming to national
authorities and has aroused international interest. He says, given the
example of the dramatic decline in Coelacanth numbers in the Comoros in the
1990s as a result of accidental catches, Tanzania took immediate steps to
reduce Coelacanth catches. The next steps were to declare formal protection
under national legislation-the Marine Parks and Reserves Act No 29 of
1994-which calls for the involvement of communities and other stakeholders
in the planning and management of marine protected areas, he says.

But these measures may prove inadequate as Coelacanths continue to be
pulled up by fishers, especially around Mwambani, he says. He says the
destruction of coral reefs by rampant dynamite fishing has made traditional
fishing grounds unproductive and this is the main cause of the sudden
capture of the Coelacanths from 2003, as fishers have now to go further
offshore and set deeper nets to catch anything. Trawlers in the area may
have also stirred up the deep habitats of the Coelacanths, observes

Understandably, the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) has been
excluded from the planning process of the new port so far. "Although an
Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) is required by law for
such developments, NEMC has not been involved yet in the planning of the
new harbour in Mwambani Bay," says the NEMC Director General, Bonaventure
Baya. "NEMC is definitely not aware of any application for an ESIA for the
proposed port at Mwambani Bay," he says.

Nautical and port experts point out that Mwambani Bay is very shallow, and
that harbour construction would require extensive dredging and landfills,
which are not only extremely costly, but also bring an enormous load of
sediments and marine pollution. In addition, massive blasting of large
coral reefs areas of at least 5 km length will also be necessary, to widen
and deepen the narrow access channel to the proposed new port between Yambe
and Karange Islands, hence destroying the natural habitat of the Coelacanth
and the environment of the whole bay.

"It is therefore unavoidable that any harbour construction, and later port
operations, would have a massive impact on the planned marine park," says
another government marine scientist. Another leading Tanzanian scientist
who also prefers to remain anonymous saying the development of the new port
is very sensitive, insists that "basically a properly conducted EIA should
identify the issues and how to mitigate them. In the absence of EIA
anything can happen, including the destruction of the already very few
endangered Coelacanth in the area."

Interestingly, even the local business community and experts of the
shipping industry oppose construction of a new port at Mwambani, saying the
best solution is to renovate the current Tanga port. Claiming that they
were excluded from the port planning process, while suffering the high
costs of delays caused by operational and management problems of the
present Tanga port, the shipping industry experts and local businesses have
produced a technical brief titled "Does Tanga need a new harbour at
Mwambani?" In this, they ask for urgent maintenance, regular dredging,
better equipment and improved management of the current Tanga port in its
present location. With these small investments, they claim, the Tanga port
could already today multiply its present official capacity of 500 tonnes a
year to almost three million tonnes, and thus meet even the most optimistic
traffic forecasts.

On the tourism industry, it is believed that once fully established and
well managed and a Visitors' Centre built, this Marine park has the
potential to become a powerful tourist attraction. A marine scientist who
also prefers not to be mentioned says although the government has gazetted
the area planned for the new port as a marine park for the Coelacanths, it
is disappointing to learn that TPA still plans to build the "deep-sea port"
in the shallow Mwambani Bay, that is right in the middle of the newly
gazetted area. The Marine Park and Reserves Unit Director, Dr Abdillahi
Chande, says he is happy with the government's decision to gazette the area
in order to conserve the Coelacanth and other marine and coastal resources.

Asked by The Guardian on Sunday whether the implementation of the port
project in the area will frustrate conservation efforts, Dr Chande said:
"Every project requires EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) so NEMC
(National Environment Management Council) will do their work when the time
comes; this will ensure that the ecosystem remains intact." He adds that
the TPA will hopefully work closely with the Marine Park and Reserves Unit
when carrying out the EIA.

This newspaper has on several occasions tried in vain to get in touch with
TPA officials to comment on the progress made to the development of the new
port project. However, the TPA Director of Planning and Investment, Ms
Florence Nkya, in March 2009 told Nicola Kurht, a German journalist, that
it was true that TPA was planning to develop a deep water port at a
location known as Mwambani. "On the basis of our preliminary survey, this
site is ideal for a modern port," said Nkya, adding: "TPA has acquired 92
hectares at Mwambani Bay which will be utilised to develop port facilities
and related activities including (an) Export Processing Zone (EPZ)." She
said prior to development of the area, TPA would conduct a feasibility
study and one of the issues is the environmental issue to determine their
impact on marine life.

The TPA Director of Planning and Investment admitted that the development
of Mwambani will involve dredging activities, construction of port
infrastructure and water front facilities which requires environmental
impact assessment. "We have noted your concern related to the envisaged
developments and we believe that the EIA will definitely address and set up
mitigating measures deemed necessary," she told the German journalist in a
correspondence dated March 30, 2009, and seen by The Guardian on Sunday.

The Minister for Infrastructure Development, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa, told the
National Assembly in Dodoma recently that the government was planning to
build two new ports at Mbegani in Bagamoyo District, Coast Region, and
Mwambani Bay in Tanga Region. He said the decision to build the new ports
is based on Port Master Plan (2008-2028) whose implementation started
during the 2009/10 financial year.

Dr Kawambwa told the august House that a site for construction of Mwambani
port had also been identified, surveyed and compensation already made. But
The Guardian on Sunday has learnt that a Hamburg consultancy company
conducted the Bagamoyo feasibility study and found out that the area is not
suitable for the project. And consultancy for feasibility study on the
Mwambani port was advertised in newspapers by TPA last year but the
findings are not yet out.

Analysts say there is strong political pressure somewhere to go ahead with
this project inspite of the gazetted Marine Park, which has not been
publicised up to now. However, a group of experts say in a technical
assessment of the new port, the new harbour will probably wipe out the
local Coelacanth population that could otherwise become a major tourist
attraction. The experts say the port will also have a considerable social
cost, uncertainty and social discontent is building among residents of the
Mwambani Bay area.

According to press reports, representatives of affected villages complained
to the then Tanga Regional Commissioner, Mohamed Abdulaziz, and their
Member of Parliament, Bakari Mwapachu, about land speculation and the way
the expropriation and compensation for loss of land and houses is being
handled by TPA authorities and land officers. They claimed that the land
officers had sold their property without their consent and that they have
yet to receive compensation as required by law.

Ruth Nesje, Vice-Chairperson of Tanga Tourism Network Association (TATONA),
founded in 2008 to protect and develop the tourism potential of the natural
ecosystems and to built heritage and culture of Tanga Region, says the
establishment of the Coelacanth Marine Park will be of great help for
promoting tourism in Tanga. "This is a very special park which will attract
lots of people if developed and run in a good manner. This can really be
the tourist attraction in Tanga City. We are really glad that this park is
now officially announced by the government," says Nesje in an interview
with The Guardian on Sunday. She adds: "I do hope that the port authorities
(TPA) drop their plans regarding building a new port in Mwambani Bay. It is
not possible to join those two things (development and environmental
conservation); that will ruin the area and the marine park."

Nesje says the whole world is now discussing environmental issues, adding
that let Tanzania and Tanga be a leading force in that by showing the world
how they prioritize between environmental and development issues. "I
believe that Tanga and Tanzania will win a lot of credit by doing so. The
opportunity the large number of Coelacanth gives Tanga - must be utilised
in tourism development in the region," she adds.

Jangwa Mwimjuma Jangwa (75), one of the more than 5,000 people who have
been evicted from their native villages to pave way for the construction of
the new port, says only 53 out of 200 Ndume village households have been
allocated new plots in 1997-99 during the first round of evictions. Jangwa,
a fisherman who has lived all his life in Ndume village, says the owners of
more than 120 houses earmarked for demolition in the second stage of
evictions in 2008 have not been compensated so far, and don't even know how
much they will receive and when. Following what Jangwa has termed as land
grabbing which has relegated the villagers to the poverty trap, Ndume
village now looks like a war ravaged town with abandoned mangroves, farms,
natural water wells, grave yards and historical mosques. GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY

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