A foreign investor proposes to start prawn farming in the delta of the Rufiji River, which is the largest river in Tanzania. The project will involve the construction of ponds covering an area of 15,000 ha. This project, has generated a lot of controversy, both in terms of the number of the villagers who would be displaced and the long-term effects of environmental degradation to the area. Some people, opposed to the project, went to the extent of likening it to the tragedy which has befallen the Ogoni people in Nigeria, whose land has been extensively degraded by activities
of the multi-national oil companies.
The Rufiji Delta people themselves are also d ivided on the issue. Th e re are those who support the pro j e c t , citing its economic benefits (including employment ) , and those who oppose it. Those in opposition are supported by a my riad of env i ronmentalists including vocal non-gove rnmental orga n i z ations such as the Env i ro n m e ntal Jo u rnalists Orga n i z ation of Tanzania (JET), the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute (LARRRI) and the Tanzania Gender Netwo rk i n g P rogramme (TGNP) as well as the National Env ironmental Management Council (NEMC), wh i ch conducted an env i ronment impact assessment and advised the gove rnment against the pro j e c t . Despite all the opposition, the government approved the project. Although the project has yet to start, the people of Rufiji have gone to court to protest it. Let me at this juncture point out the ve ry c o m m e n d able job done by the media in Ta n z ania in cre ating awa reness and ge n e rating deb at e on the Indian Ocean Hotel saga and the Rufi j i p rawns pro j e c t , wh i ch is yet to take off. It wa s t h rough the media that people became awa re of the violation of their right to access the beach and the law wh i ch prohibits putting up perm anent stru c t u res on public beaches. The people of Rufiji came to know of the prawns pro j e c t after the media had interc epted some documents rega rding the project and immediat e ly made it public know l e d ge. Though the gove rnment has ap p roved the pro j e c t , most Rufi j i a n s a re not for it.