DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – Tanzania’s President has rejected an application to place some mountains in the Eastern Arc under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site.
The President, Mr. Jakaya Kikwete, nullified an application that was submitted to UNESCO by Tanzania’s Ministry of Tourism, which was looking for the UN body to assess and grant the Udzungwa and Uluguru mountain ranges in the Eastern Arc Mountains, the status of World Heritage Site.
The Tanzanian President said there was no logic to place some of the mountains in the Eastern Arc under UNESCO as heritage site, because these mountains are highly needed by the people of Tanzania for various economic reasons.
Looking at the nature of these mountains, various communities have been living on their closer slopes for centuries and depend on the mountain resources for their livelihoods. Eastern Arc Mountains stretch from northern Tanzania’s border with Kenya to the Southern Highlands border with Malawi. They include Pare, Usambara, Uluguru, Udzungwa, Kipengere, and Livingstone.
He directed withdrawal of the application and that the matter should be referred to his government for an appropriate decision. Tanzania is signatory to an international convention under which UNESCO coordinates World Heritage Conservation.
Full of attractive wildlife and nature, as well as fragile mountainous forests, the Eastern Arc Mountains have been preserved through a recently completed seven-year biodiversity project managed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The Eastern Arc Mountains project, financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was concluded last year after an independent evaluation reported that at least 10,000 hectares of forest had been saved from destruction and that the rate of forest loss had been reduced by 10 percent.
River flows from the Eastern Arc Mountains are the main source of water for at least a quarter of Tanzania’s population. They produce more than half the country’s hydro-electric power.
Water, electricity, and non-timber forest products from the area generate over US$175 million every year, according to UNDP experts.
The Tanzanian Ministry of Tourism had earlier nominated the forest ecosystem for recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The project was selected because an estimated 70 percent of the Eastern Arc’s rich and unique forestland had been destroyed mainly through farming and timber harvesting. Only about 5,400 square kilometers of the original 23,000 square kilometers of forested area remained on the mountains.
UNDP worked on the project with the Tanzanian Government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic bodies, and village administrations to develop community-based conservation initiatives.
Conservation efforts included the preservation of the Uluguru mountain’s native communities reserve in the Morogoro region on the eastern side of the country – a popular tourism destination and home to more than 100 unique plants, bird species, mammals, and amphibians.
Some 300 people from 10 villages in the Morogoro region were trained in new methods of agriculture and livestock husbandry.
Though not much developed as full-fledged tourist sites, the Eastern Arc Mountains harbors rich wildlife species. Two national parks – Mkomazi National Park on Pare Mountains and Udzungwa Mountains National Park on Udzungwa Mountains – have been established.
Mkomazi National Park is Tanzania’s 15th newest national park with great biological significance, representing one of the richest savannas known in Africa, containing many species found nowhere in Africa.
Tanzania plans to draw up a comprehensive inventory of its forests to replace outdated statistics and help the east African country to conserve woodland, preserve livelihoods, and curb climate change.
“Information collection, analysis, and the handling of data will help us to monitor the available forestry resources,” said project coordinator Nurdin Chamunya from Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Louise Setshwaelo, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) country representative in Tanzania said the state and trends of forestry resources are largely unknown and the existing information is fragmented and outdated.
The forthcoming Fifth International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) African Conference in Lusaka, Zambia, in May this year would discuss the impacts of climate change on African tourism and challenges ahead to rectify the situation.
With a theme, “Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change to Tourism in Africa and the Developing World,” the Fifth IIPT African Conference will bring together leading experts in tourism and climate change, and presentations of models of best practice from diverse sectors of the tourist industry from more than 40 different countries.
Topics to be covered by the experts include management of greenhouse emissions, conservation practices, regional planning and infrastructure requirements, sustainable accommodations, coastal tourism strategies, water quality and quantity, forests and wildlife, the central role of national parks and protected areas, preserving bio-diversity, the human dimensions of climate change, promotion of public awareness, and disaster response, among other burning issues.