African countries should resist the temptation of selling the integrity of their natural world heritage sites to mineral extraction for billions of dollars, Kwame Kumah, Director of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) Africa region, has warned.
In a report compiled by correspondent Tom Ansley, Kumah says, even though mining beneath heritage sites could bring massive economic gains, African countries might bear colossal ecological losses in the long-term.
While they have to fulfil the mandate of alleviating poverty through economic and human development, African countries, with an abundance of hydrocarbon and mineral resources beneath heritage sites, have to seriously consider other, more sustainable options, advises Kumah. “Once pristine places are damaged and changed, sometimes irreversibly. And that’s to say nothing of the environmental risks that extractives industries pose to sensitive ecosystems, such as oil spills, toxic tailings from mining, pollution and contamination of water.”
For this reason, he urges African countries to find the right balance between long term benefits for their people and nature. “We must find what can be sustainable pursued with minimal disruption to nature. More work must be done to define which economic activities are compatible with protected areas.”
Kameh’s main concern is that African countries might not have the wherewithal (capacity and expertise) to limit or respond to environmental risks, pondering: “Do the benefits match the cost for the loss of natural heritage?”
The WWF considers the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools and Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, Frederick Kwame Kumah, as some of thee continent’s priciest natural heritage sites.