Uranium Mining Impact on Health & Environment
Uranium Mining in Tanzania: Implication
for Bahi and Manyoni Districts
By Anthony Lyamunda
In the recent years, Tanzania has witnessed a lot of activities in its mining industry and is currently expecting new investments in following the unearthing of uranium resources in the country. From 2006 and in the subsequent years, the Tanzanian government has granted exploration licenses to numerous international companies to explore this resource. Government in 2013 announced that the country had confirmed 17.8 million tons of uranium reserves at the ecologically sensitive Mkuju River, whose extraction would bring in some $363 million US$ in corporate taxes and another $50 million US$ in Pay As You Earn (PAYE). On the other hand however, there has been a lot of opposition from communities, civil society and experts across the board about the complications related to the mining of uranium. Opponents have sighted uranium mining as posing serious hazards to the environment and health through contamination of ecological resources by poisonous and radioactive substances, a hallmark of this industry.
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BASELINE STUDY ON URANIUM LEVEL IN BAHI DISTRICT – DODOMA TANZANIA
Report on natural uranium level in Bahi district, Tanzania
The study was initiated by Civil Education is the Solution to Poverty and Environmental Management Organization (CESOPE) and technically supported by Freiberg Academy of Mining in Germany and University of Dodoma in Tanzania. It is based on field data collected by direct measurement of uranium level by gamma-ray spectrometer and analysis of surface
soil and groundwater samples from the villages around Bahi Swamp. The field work was conducted during September-October 2012 and accompanied by A. Mwakipesile (Environmental Scientist, University of Dodoma), Fadhili C. Bwagalilo (Researcher at St. John’s University) and K. Kashimbi (Water Specialist, University of Dodoma). The purpose of this study is to provide information about the current level of natural uranium in the study area. It presents the results of groundwater and soil analysis as well as terrestrial gamma-ray survey data from Nagulu, Chali, Bahi, Ilindi, Makanda and Mkakatika at the same time serving as a baseline study conducted prior to major mining activities which are expected to commence in Bahi region in very near future.
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ECONOMICAL AND ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH OF BAHI SWAMP
This research was commissioned to determine the economic resources and ecological conditions that support the livelihoods of the people of the area around Bahi Swamp. Its main aim was to compare the market values of existing economic services with what is anticipated from the planned uranium mining. This would help evaluate the actual costs of the intended mining activities, particularly from an environmental sustainability standpoint.
The Bahi swamp area is made up of the whole of Bahi district and five wards of Manyoni covering an area of 6798.4Kms. It has an estimated population of 268,000 persons, mostly farmers who keep livestock of different types. Other economic activities that support contribute livelihoods in the area include fishing in the many swamps and rivers particularly during the rainy season, salt production, harvesting forest products, bee keeping, and, to a lesser extent, commercial activities like owning shops and trading in farm products, livestock, fish and salt. Based on conservative estimates at farm gate prices, the economic value derived from the major economic activities is TS 278,909,197,400/=. The contributions by major economic activities is as follows: agriculture, TS 113,932,320,000/=; livestock keeping, TS79,913,675,000/=; fishing, TS3,760,350,000/=; salt production, TS 294,000,000/=; forest products, TS 80,511,897,600/=; and honey and wax, TS
496,954,000/=. Introducing uranium mining in the area would threaten most of these economic activities – save, perhaps, livestock keeping which can be shifted elsewhere. According to geological survey reports (which ones?) uranium is almost everywhere in the swamp area. If the government gives the go ahead to the proposed uranium mining, many people would have to be relocated. In addition, uranium mining may make the whole area dangerous due to the release of radionuclides and radioactive dust and gases such as radon. If radionuclides are released, they may spread throughout the groundwater and surface water systems, placing the entire swamp area and surrounding districts at great risk. The principal risk will be related to human health particularly if radiation spreads to agricultural and
livestock systems and via the food chain into the human population. Furthermore, uranium mining would greatly affect the biodiversity of the area; it poses a serious threat to
the life of birds, particularly water birds (flamingos), fish, vegetation and animals. There would also be negative impacts on the genetic resources which underlie the diversity of crops and livestock on which the people of Bahi Swamp area depend. In economic terms biodiversity is important because about 40 percent of the global economy is based on the biological products and processes. Pollutants from uranium mining can kill organisms outright and can change biochemical conditions and processes occurring within a system and result in systemic changes that degrade habitats and make ecological processes dysfunctional.
On the other hand, the benefits that the country and the Bahi Swamp area community will get from uranium mining include employment opportunities and a royalty fee of 5 percent of revenue paid to the government and from corporate responsibilities. Without taking into account whatever compensation will be paid, financial benefits to the country over the thirteen year period discounted at 10 percent rate of interest will be TS 93,125,012,319/=. This is a small benefit compared with the loss of TS 278,909,197,400/= that represents the estimated current value of the Bahi swamp area. In comparison, the companies will receive an estimated discounted revenue of TS 1,196,750,700,000/=.
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FARKWA DAM PROJECT
the strategy of government is to dry out Bahi swamp in order to pave the
way for highly controversial uranium mining projects which also potentially
affect Bahi wetland.
- RESEARCH ON THE DAM CONSTRUCTION PROJECT AT FARKWA IN CHEMBA DISTRICT DODOMA REGION
CESOPE decided to conduct this research after being confronted with rumors about a government project for the construction of a large water dam which will involve the blocking of the river Bubu at Farkwa in Chemba district (Dodoma region). River Bubu is the main tributary for Bahi wetland which is extending south of the small town Bahi about 56km west of the Tanzanian capital Dodoma. River Bubu and Bahi wetland are mainstays for sustaining livelihoods in the otherwise semi arid area providing opportunities like fishing, irrigated rice
farming, salt production and other economic activities. Negative effects on these natural resources would seriously affect many people. Bahi wetland is also part of the East African Flamingo-Habitat-Network. A fierce public discussion on the project has started and there is uncertainty about the real beneficiaries of the project. Some voices suspect a connection to uranium mining plans, which are pushed in the area for more than six years.
Participation of Leaders
As well leading officers nominated by central government as elected representatives of communities were not involved in making decisions about the dam construction project. Apart from Chemba district, no districts in Dodoma and Singida region were given information about the project although all districts along river Bubu and Bahi wetland will be affected in a
positive or a negative way.
Perception of the project among communities
The experience of not being informed properly and not being involved in decision making made villagers to regard the Ministry of Water as a body that makes its decisions regardless of citizen’s interests. People feel that they have no right to live in these area and government does not respect their presence. Lack of information and transparency on the background of the projects is causing uncertainty among the people in the area. Some think that perhaps
the strategy of government is to dry out Bahi swamp in order to pave the way for highly controversial uranium mining projects which also potentially affect Bahi wetland. In the meantime the ministry acknowledged that education has not yet been provided to the public in a sufficient way and is considering meeting with officials at the local and district level to introduce the project and the strategies of the government for this project.
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NEW URANIUM PROJECT IN TANZANIA
CLICK HERE http://www.wise-uranium.org/uptz.html