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DATE: May 24, 2018

SNIP: The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania is one of the last major expanses of wilderness in Africa. It’s a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site about the size of Switzerland, and home to elephants, lions, giraffes, cheetahs and rhinos, as well as 12 percent of all endangered African wild dogs.

But the nature reserve is under threat.

Since 2014, it has been on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, primarily because of elephant poaching. In less than 40 years, the park lost 90 percent of its elephants. But a planned hydropower dam could have an even more devastating impact.

Tanzania has an electricity problem. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), only 10 percent of households in Tanzania have access to the national grid.

To meet the country’s energy needs, the Tanzanian government is planning to build a huge hydropower dam on the Rufiji River, in the heart of the protected Selous Game Reserve. The plan is expected to provide the country with an additional 2,100 megawatts of electricity.

Reaching 130 meters (427 feet) in height and stretching 700 meters across the Stiegler Canyon, the dam is to create a 1,500 square kilometers (463 square mile) lake. An area roughly twice the size of Berlin would vanish under water.

“It’s a huge threat,” Johannes Kirchgatter, officer for the Africa Program for WWF Germany, told DW.

“The dam would destroy one of the most important habitats for wildlife and the heart of the game reserve, where most of the animals roam, especially in the dry season. It would open up that whole area for industrialization, infrastructure and settlements.”

“It’s absolutely horrible to imagine that in the middle of this pristine wilderness a huge dam is being built,” he added. “If you’re standing in the middle of Selous now, it’s a fantastic wilderness, there is wildlife all over, and all of that would be goneā€¦ It would be a great loss for us and the generations to come.”

Wikipedia page about the dam

Construction approval