In Summary
  • Tanzania awarded a $3 billion contract to two Egyptian firms in December to construct the dam, which Magufuli has made a centrepiece of his presidency since being elected in 2015.

  • Magufuli defended Tanzania's environmental record, saying roughly one-third of the country was protected land.
  • Magufuli has insisted the dam would not only meet national electricity needs, it would also provide surplus power to export to neighbouring countries.

NAIROBI,  

Tanzanian President John Magufuli downplayed fears Tuesday that a hydro-electric dam planned for a fabled nature reserve would affect the environment, despite Unesco expressing "grave concern" over the scheme.

The 2,100-megawatt scheme will straddle the Rufiji River in the Selous Game Reserve, a 50,000-square-kilometre (19,000-square-mile) protected area which was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1982.

Tanzania awarded a $3 billion (2.68-billion-euro) contract to two Egyptian firms in December to construct the dam, which Magufuli has made a centrepiece of his presidency since being elected in 2015.

He said by providing energy to Tanzanians living near the reserve -- a haven for elephants, black rhinoceroses, cheetahs and giraffes -- the dam would deter local communities from felling trees for cheap fuel.

"I want to reassure everyone, this project in fact aims to promote the environment," Magufuli said at the inauguration of a new national park in Tanzania's northwest.

"Also, it just a small part of the reserve, just three percent of the total area."

WILDLIFE PROTECTION

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