DAR-ES-SALAAM, Tanzanian has officially informed theUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Culutral Organization (Unesco) that the implementation of its Stiegler's Gorge hydro-electric dam project located in the Selous Game Reserve is "inevitable".

The project has triggered heated debate, with ecologists opposing it on grounds that its implementation could damage a World Heritage site. However, during a meeting of the Unesco's World Heritage Committee in Poland last week, the government delegation set out the country's firm position to execute the project.

The Permanent Secretary in the Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry, Major-General Gaudence Milanzi, led the government team which also included Tanzania's Ambassador to France, Samwel Shelukind,o who doubles as the Permanent Representative to the Paris-headquartered Unesco.

The delegation consulted with senior officers of the World Heritage Centre and its advisory dodies on the matter and officially submitted a letter to the centre, expressing the country's position, the Ministry said in a statement here Monday, adding that Gen. Milanzi argued before the committee that plans to build the dam had been on the government agenda since the 1960s.

The Selous Game Reserve covers 50,000 square kilometres, with the proposed hydro-electric dam project expected to use a mere three per cent of the area. Tanzania also pointed out the Selous Game Reserve was inscribed in the World Heritage List by Unesco with the dam project already on the table.

It should be noted that at the time of inscribing the reserve in 1982, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considered that the Stiegler's Gorge project was of no serious environmental concern, given the vast size of the property, Gen. Milanzi argued.

He further pointed out that Tanzania had recently made a firm decision to industrialise the economy, significantly increasing the country's energy demand. Given the current power generation options, it has been imperative to reconsider Stigler's Gorge as the momentous power source, he said.

At full capacity, the project will boost Tanzania's total power production by about 145 per cent. Upon completion, the project benefit the majority of Tanzanians who are currently living without electricity supplies and will also meet the increased industrial power demand in the country.

Underscoring the country's position, he said that if well planned, executed and monitored, power projects like Stigler's Gorge need not necessarily adversely impair conservation efforts. Instead, by use of the best available technological options, planning and monitoring tools, the hydro-power project stands to generate national wealth and improve the livelihoods and social well-being of local communities.

He also pointed out that despite the 'no option' conception for hydro-power projects within or adjacent World Heritage sites, in reality demand for such projects continue to exist worldwide since they address basic socio-economic needs not only in Tanzania but also in other countries.

In delivering the statement, he emphasized that the message was to confirm to the WHC about Tanzania's determination to proceed with the project, based on the principles of sustainable development. The country was ready for further consultations to allow implementation of the project for the socio-economic and environmental well-being of the Game Reserve and all Tanzanians. Tanzania is a signatory to the World Heritage Convention of 1972.