Tourism in Tanzania: World Bank halts financing for proposal to create Ruaha National Park

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A $150 million ($120 million) tourism project in Tanzania has lost World Bank funding due to claims of rape, evictions, and murders.

According to reports, the project called for the extension of Ruaha National Park to quadruple in area. However, opponents claim that this has resulted in rampant abuses.

Following allegations of its involvement in the abuses, the bank launched an investigation last year.

It declared on Tuesday that the accusations “deeply concerned” it.

A bank representative stated, “We have therefore decided to suspend further disbursement of funds with immediate effect.” The bank lends money to developing nations.

In an attempt to enhance the “management of natural resources and tourism assets” in southern Tanzania, particularly in several national parks, the bank announced the Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth (Regrow) project in 2017.

The US-based think tank Oakland Institute claims that at least $100 million has already been paid for the initiative.

There has been intense scrutiny surrounding efforts to extend the limits of Ruaha National Park, a 12,950-sq-km (5,000-sq-mile) conservation region that is home to lions and other wild species.

The Oakland Institute has been covering purported wrongdoing associated with development that the Tanzanian government has been carrying out with bank funding for more than a year.

Requests for comment from the BBC were not answered by the Tanzanian administration.

According to Oakland Institute, in September of last year, their research team spoke with a number of villagers who said that rangers supported by Regrow had sexually assaulted them.

The Oakland Institute also cited accusations in its book from a community organization and a Tanzanian MP alleging that civilians had been slain by rangers.

The Tanzanian government “blatantly” broke bank policies by preparing to evict residents without a documented resettlement plan, according to the think tank, which also claimed that government authorities had taken animals in large quantities in an attempt to drive villagers off their land.

The study said that the bank had “turned a blind eye to the horrific abuses unleased onto the communities”.

The bank declared the next month that it was looking into the claims.

Oakland Institute executive director Anuradha Mittal hailed the bank’s “long overdue” action as a “crucial step towards accountability and justice” following the announcement on Tuesday that the bank will no longer be sponsoring Regrow.

“It sends a resounding message to the Tanzanian government that there are consequences for its rampant rights abuses taking place across the country to boost tourism.”

It was declared by the think tank that villages that had been “victims of gross human rights violations” should now get “adequate” and “prompt” restitution. It further stated that the bank has to stop other communities from being forcibly evicted.

The bank said that it will “continue to work with the authorities and the local communities to ensure all Bank-supported projects protect and improve the lives of Tanzanians” and that it has “robust policies” in place to prevent any potential “harmful impacts”.

The government has been accused by organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of forcibly evicting thousands of Tanzanians from the Maasai ethnic group in order to establish a game reserve in the northern Ngorongoro region. The accusations of abuse are not restricted to tourism projects in the south.

The accusations have already been refuted by the government.