Like many other elegant areas of environmental significance in Tanzania, Pugu Forest is one among such areas being severely undermined by human activities leaving the area destructively unbecoming. This forest area has been invaded by a group of small aggregates miners who illegally and unsustainably excavate the land to get aggregates as the major income generating undertaking. The aggregates excavated are sold to builders in the nearby suburbs.
A group of Young Environmentalist Trainees (YETs) under WWF-TPO had visited the area on 13th May, 2009 to see the contemporary situation on the area. Despite the visit being not prior informed to the miners the YETs were friendly welcomed by their host (small miners) with high degree of cooperation and openness ready to respond to any question imposed to them even when the questions looked conflicting with their interests. The response to the questions as to why they remorseless degrade the environment in the forest area was that, the area is their office to win for their daily bread, thus after selling the aggregates they are able to meet their daily household basic needs including sending kids to school, to them the area is their life. They said that any attempt to evict them from that area is as to detach the infant from its mothers’ breast feed of which they are not willing to easily yield in. They said out of a long time involvement to such activities on the area, itt has been the major source of income they entirely depend.
Until then, the miners were in conflict with the district council after when the council had issued a statement that prohibits aggregate mining in the forest area. However the miners have been claimants demanding to have rights to mine aggregates on the site.
The district council has tried to use the police force to subdue the miners but unfortunately the police prove fiasco as the miners always scarper when they see the police force advancing to their mines. I could not have an opportunity to talk to the district authority with regards to this issue but information from non-aligned source that preferred anonymity said that, the issue has been going awry due to conflict of interests between political will and administive authority. The miners feel marginalized and not considered in decision making not given a chance to express their interest but rather to adhere to the government bureaucracy and orders. At first the government scoffed at the miners but as the situation has persistently becoming aggravated the government sought to seek for solutions. The government has prepared a new area for such activities to be carried out, but the small miners are still reluctant to shift to the new area, however a lot of controversies arise with this alternative as the small miners blame the government that the new area is very far from their customers, moreover remote with rough impassable roads, they fear that this would make them loose their customers and suffer consequently.
With all these stories going on still Pugu forest is put into great pearl with illegal mining. I am not very sure whether the government has unconditionally relented and let the miners carry on with this obnoxious undertaking depleting the forest or else irrespective of the imperative immediate pragmatic actions to save the forest from this mess. The miners have inexorably sweared to persue with their business despite knowing it to be destructive, illegal and devastating unless the consensus is reached.
Such sweltering havocs to natural resources face many places in Tanzania Pugu forest being a very small entity of representative. I presume poverty to be the epicenter of such problems on environment, poverty makes people turn to the natural resources as a soft target to save for their daily bread. As for Pugu forest the constellation of aggregate miners is more or less a clique of uneducated, poor, unemployed people who depend entirely to aggregate selling for their livelihood earnings.
With this devastating story I still remain optimistic that both government and other stakeholders as for aggregate miners can merge for round table discussion reaching to win-win unundertroden satisfaction that enhance both community economic development and environmental conservation.