Laws on natural resources faulted

 A herd of elephants wonder about in the Selous Game Reserve. Experts have reasoned that it is high time laws governing natural resources were harmonised and adjusted so that communities could benefit more from them. The natural resources mentioned include forests, wildlife reserves and land. PHOTO | FILEBENEFITS

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Inclusiveness and transparency should be increased during the process. Those were some of the recommendations by conservation stakeholders last week during a debate

Dar es Salaam. Laws governing natural resources should be harmonised to ensure communities benefit from forests, wildlife and land. Communities should also be given more powers to manage natural resources.

It is also important to enhance learning and discussions for various stakeholders such as the government, communities, civil society organisations and the private sector on management of natural resources.

Capacity building for key institutions should be encouraged to improve management of natural resources.

Inclusiveness and transparency should be increased during the process.These were some of the recommendations by conservation stakeholders last week during a breakfast debate themed ‘Challenges of managing natural resources with conflicting legislation: the case of wildlife conservation Act Number 5 of 2009.

The event was organised by Policy Forum.

Presenting recommendations of the study, the legal advisor and programme coordinator of Ujamaa Community Resource Team, Mr Edward Lekaita, said more cross-sectoral natural resource management policy and governance was needed.

“Better coordination among the ministries is also required to ensure other development initiatives, taking into account the need to maintain wildlife connectivity and conflicting land use policies are avoided,” he said citing the US Agency for International Development report of 2017.

Reading other recommendations, he said it was necessary to train park wardens in community social relations and development in addition to scientific management of plant and animal species and their habitats.

He also explained that biodiversity conservation in national parks was affected by factors associated with the creation and management of the park, the local community neighbouring the park, the area where the park is located, the national policies governing the park and financial resource base of the park.

The study recommended that future strategies of conserving biodiversity in parks should focus as much on the socio-economic human dimension of biodiversity conservation. Earlier, Mr Lekaita named 13 conflicting policies, laws and regulations.

They include the Wildlife Conservation Act, 1974, the Wildlife Policy of 1998 (The Wildlife Policy revised 2007), the Wildlife Conservation Act, No.5 2009, the Village Land Act, No.5 1999, the Land Act, No.4 1999 and the Forest Act, 2002.

Others are the Environmental Management Act, 2004, the Grazing Land and Animal Feed Resources Act, 2010, the Mining Act, 2010, the Water Resources Management Act, 2009, the Wildlife Migratory routes and Buffer zones and Corridors regulations 2018, the Wildlife Management Authority (WMA) regulations 2012 versus the Wildlife Management Authority regulations 2018 and the Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) Act, 2017.

According to Mr Lekaita, land laws are supreme when confusion arises between land and other laws on matters of land.

Mining, petroleum, gas, uranium, wildlife and water do not constitute the land rights. “The presence of these resources in a particular land could form a basis for revocation of land rights and that holders of the said land could only be compensated,” he said.

“The presence of mining, petroleum, gas, uranium could form a basis for conversion, transfer and acquisition of land from one category to another [de-gazettement of the national park to pave the way for any development project].”

According to him, the president has been vested with legal and constitutional powers to convert any land from one category to another.

In another contradiction, he said the Environmental Management Act is supreme over all other laws when it comes to protection of environment.

But once an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is done, anything can happen on a piece of land including allowing the mining and extraction activities to take place.

However, rights to land do not guarantee water rights, utilisation of forest, use of wildlife, extract mining, gas and petroleum, according to him.

He also explained that the wildlife law is also supreme when it comes to wildlife issues, but the country’s wildlife conservation is characterised by the gradual accumulation of authority in the hands of centralised state management agencies.

“The Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 gives less power to local communities to control, own, access and benefit from wildlife products compared with forest legislation on utilisation of products.

The forest legislation is considered more progressive as it gives more powers and flexibility to local communities to utilise forest products with less control from state organs.”

The wildlife law prohibits mining in reserved lands, but the mining legislation gives powers to the responsible minister to issue permits and licences for individuals to conduct mining activities in any area of land across Mainland Tanzania.

“A reserved land therefore can be de-gazetted to allow mining activities to be undertaken. Since mining is more perceived to generate more money and could be used as the basis for reserved to be converted into a mining site more easily than the mining area to be converted into reserved land, even if it is ecologically sound to do so,” he said.

Babati Rural MP Jitu Soni said policies, laws and regulations need to be harmonised to reduce conflicts and ensure citizens benefit. “Laws should be translated into Kiswahili to ensure smooth implementation and promote transparency and involvement of citizens.”

According to him, while WMAs aim at collecting more revenue, they should also aim at benefiting citizens.

“Burunge WMA situated in Manyara Region is located in a game-controlled area surrounded by legally recognised villages. It collects more revenue than the district council, but citizens in surrounding villages live in extreme poverty,” he lamented.

Chambani MP Yusuf Salim Hussein said since land use plans were poor, people had been invading wildlife conservation areas, escalating conflicts. “Stakeholders from the conservation, mining, forestry, agriculture, water and lands sectors should take part in drafting laws.”

Conservation consultant Benedicto Kyaruzi also spoke about laws being contradictory.