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EDITORIAL: FIND WAYS TO FULLY EXPLOIT L. VICTORIA, AMBONI CAVES

Tuesday December 01 2020
Lake pic

Fishermen on Lake Victoria. The lake is said to have the potential to generate over $800 million annually for East African countries. PHOTO | FILE

Yesterday, we reported on two of our God-given natural resources that are yet to be fully exploited to better advantage of the Economy and Tanzanians. One such under-exploited asset is Lake Victoria in the African Great Lakes Region; the other is the Amboni Caves system in Tanga Region.

With a water volume of 2,424km3; a surface area of 59,947km²; a shore length of 7,142km and an average depth of 41 metres, Lake Victoria is one of the African great lakes that is the drainage basin for Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – named here strictly in alphabetical order, and on no other merit.

The other potential resource, the Amboni Caves, are the most extensive limestone caves in East Africa, located some 8km north of Tanga metropolis, off the Tanga Road to Mombasa in Kenya.

Covering an area of 234km², the ten caves were formed about 150 million years ago during the Jurassic Age. But only one of them is currently used for guided tours, mostly to view popo flights – any number of bats that flying en masse out of the cave at sunset every evening.

Also inside the caves are assorted rocks in the shapes of a sofa, a ship, a crocodile, an elephant, the head of a male lion and – surprise, surprise: rocks in the shapes of a map of Africa and the Statue of Liberty, the world-famous US Symbol of Liberty in Upper New York Bay.

As early as in 1922, the British colonial government officially declared the Amboni Caves a “conservation Area of special historic interest which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”.

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Meanwhile, the local ethnic groups living near the caves – including the Segeju, Sambaa, Bondei and the Digo – used the caves for prayers and tribal-cum-traditional rites and rituals.


Government-controlled zone

Then, what with one thing leading to another, the Independent Government of Tanganyika handed over the caves to its Department of Antiquities in 1963 as a government-controlled zone.

But, for all practical purposes, the Amboni Caves remained a virtually dormant resource. However, in due course of time and events – about six months ago, really – the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) stepped into the yawning breach of what is a grossly under-exploited natural asset.

In this regard, the Authority has taken over management of the asset with a view to developing it into a must-go-to tourist attraction.

Mandated to conserve and develop the natural resources – as well as to promote tourism – in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, NCAA is now extending its vast know-how in environmental conservation and tourism promotion to the long-neglected Amboni Caves in the best interests of Mother Nature, the Economy and Tanzanians at large.

We heartily thank the relevant authorities for this.

Returning to Lake Victoria, we are also grateful to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) for passing the Lake Victoria Basin Commission Bill, 2019, intended to empower the Commission to directly mobilise resources, including funds, for the execution of income-generating projects in the Lake Victoria Basin countries.

Lake Victoria’s potential for meaningful and sustainable all-inclusive socioeconomic development is phenomenal, and we urge the Heads of State involved to assent to the Bill apace.