The process of seeking support from UNESCO to recognize parts of eastern arc mountain to be among word heritage sites started mid 1990s, but now it seems as if the dream of environmental stakeholders to achieve their goals has stunned by government.
The Daily News of Thursday, March 31, 2011, reported the president’s visit to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, he ordered the ministry to stop seeking support from UNESCO in protecting Eastern Arc Mountain Forest of Tanzania to be World Heritage Site. He went further warning that putting that large area under control of UNESCO is dangerous since it is going to have total authority to sanction any decision on social and economic development activities being undertaken by government. The map below shows the coverage of eastern arc mountain forest and the proposed area for World heritage site are indicated by red colour.
But in reality the nominated areas were restricted to the area that are already reserved under Tanzania law and do not include any village land and general land. The initiative could not hinder any developmental activities because most of these areas have already gazetted as reserved, so the process of declaring it as a World Heritage Site is to add value and seek more support and add more tourism attraction in the country. There is a concern that president decision may have been based on some miscommunication regarding the proposed World Heritage Site
The eastern arc mountain has the highest rate of galagos endemism and diversity in the world that ranking Tanzania as a number one for galago diversity. The Galoga is on top 25 most endangered primates in the world (http://www.primate-sg org/PDF/Primate.in.Peril.2008-2010.pdf), this makes it unique but now invasive species threats some vital species so immediate measures are required.
The environmental stakeholders thought since eastern arc mountain is the centre of species endemism that contains more than 800 plants and 100 vertebrates require great care to secure extinction of some species while ensuring sustainable supply of ecosystem services such as water to the community. The great threats of this area are illegal activities and invasive species that normally outcompete native species and hence influence biodiversity. The support from UNESCO would help to encourage more investors to support local effort on conservation since conservation activities is expensive.
The analysis published in the Journal Biological Conservation (Moore et al) suggested management costs for effective management of different habitat types across Africa. These calculations suggested that African mountain forest habitats in the tropical region of the continent requires around $364 USD/km2 (around 546,000TSH/km2) (564m radius) per annum for effective forest management. This implies that management of these forests are expensive, so upon rejecting support from UNESCO and its allies implies that the government will stand alone with the huge task of conservation of the Eastern Arc Mountains.
The nomination of the Eastern Arc Mountain to the World Heritage Site will increase more attention to the mountain, more support on conservation could enhance sustainable supply of the forest products and services to the community, so president should review his decision for the benefit of the country.
Written by John Reuben-YET 2011