MOROGORO, TANZANIA - Despite criticism from environmentalists, Tanzanian President John Magufuli has inaugurated a new hydroelectric power project in Selous Game Reserve, a world heritage site. The project is expected to provide an additional 2,100 megawatts of electricity, which will more than triple Tanzania's installed hydropower capacity of 562 megawatts.
Currently only 10 percent of households in Tanzania have access to the national grid for electricity, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Magufuli said the project will not affect the environment and will boost the economy through industrialization.
The project will be contained to 3 percent of the Selous Game Reserve, a protected area about the size of Switzerland, Magufuli said. Once completed, the dam will be owned by the Ministry of Tourism.
Ahmed Elsewedy, spokesman for Elsewedy Electric, an Egyptian company which has financial interests in the project, said the company will open schools and help boost the economy.
"We are honored to deal with Tanzania," he said, adding that the company plans to build factories, increase trade, and open technical schools to train employees. "Our main purpose is to make the Tanzanian government, the Tanzanian people, have better [lives]."
But conservation organizations have been raising concerns about the dam's environmental impact since plans were released in 2009. The World Wildlife Fund says the project will endanger the livelihoods of some 200,000 people, including farmers and fishermen living downstream from the proposed dam.
According to the WWF, the Selous Game Reserve is one of Africa's largest remaining wildnerness areas, and is home to elephants, black rhinos and wild hunting dogs.