The catastrophic events at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan on 11 March 2011 should sound as a vivid reminder of how profoundly hazardous uranium activities are. Even after three long years, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Japan and across the world continue to be affected by this disaster especially the thousands who remain in make shift camps because of radioactive contamination. To this date, hundreds of tons of radioactively contaminated water are reportedly still leaking out of the damaged reactors.
Whilst the developments in the global uranium mining and energy sector are worrisome, advances in uranium mining sector in Tanzania continue unrelatedly. In 2013, Tanzania under its new mining legislation issued its first uranium mining license for the Mkuju River Project, which lies in the now partly degazetted and ecologically delicate Selous Game Reserve. Hitherto, test exploration for uranium in Bahi and other prospective areas had commenced in earlier years. Numerous findings reveal that uranium mining has had a notable health risks to mine workers, the environment and to host communities. Many of the concerns have been further articulated in this publication.
Given the evolution in the uranium mining sector in Tanzania, the question of community participation in environmental management in the extractive sector has caught the attention of many stakeholders. NGOs and other stakeholders have decried the absence of civic involvement in the processes of environmental management despite government pronouncements that seem to sanction community participation in environmental management processes. The reality on the ground is that there is insignificant involvement of these communities. Furthermore, prospecting companies have been rather complacent in meeting many minimum standards in this pilot phase as witnessed in Bahi. Depicting upon criticisms and feedback coming from various consultations with uranium mining affected communities in Tanzania and across the world, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and other partners organized a series of activities under the theme “Uranium Mining: Impact on Health and Environment”. Starting with a field visit in Bahi and a public dialogue in Dodoma the activities culminated in an international conference in Dar es Salaam; the aim of this campaign addressed the need to examine uranium mining and its implications on health and the environment.
In this regard, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is grateful to its partners including the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), CESOPE in Dodoma, civil society actors in Ruvuma Region, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Uranium Network and African Uranium Alliance. The collaborative effort of all these organisations has facilitated debate around the dangers of uranium mining and enabled afflicted communities to have a say in the management of their resources. The RLS is also grateful for participation from the Government of Tanzania represented by the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Hussein Ally Mwinyi. I hope civil society, activists, communities, private sector and government will continue to have purposeful engagement on uranium mining in the expectation of finding safer energy solutions for the generations to come.
(Acknowledgement by Siegfried Schröder, Regional Director of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS) East African Office)