Contested waters: negotiating multiple actors on the Rufiji basin – Tanzania, 1960 to the Present

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In 2018, Tanzania launched the construction of a huge hydropower project intended to ensure the country with power supply. It launched the construction of the delayed Stiegler’s Gorge Hydropower but this time being named de-colonially as Julius Nyerere Hydropower Plant (JNHPP). Despite the criticisms towards the project, President John Magufuli gave it a go ahead promising to fund it from internal sources. Construction of the JNHPP adds into the contestations of water use in the Rufiji basin because, there are already other multiple users. The waters from the basin are used for irrigation agriculture and livestock in the Usangu plains and Kilombero valley. Also, it is used for wild animals in the Ruaha and Udzungwa National Parks and the existing hydropower at Mtera and Kidatu dams. This article examines how contested water uses in the basin negotiates the multiple interests taking account of the upstream and downstream water uses. I indicate that the construction of the dam apart from other impacts will result into a need to redefine the previous uses in order to accommodate the new one. Tracing water use from the Mbarali plains into the Ruaha River, Mtera and Kidatu dams, the article posits that the Rufiji basin carries the real sense of how resources can be contested and negotiated.

Dr Chuhila is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History, College of Humanities at the University of Dar es salaam. He did his Ph.D at the University of Warwick, which was focused on the history of land use change in Kilimanjaro over the last century. He has published in a range of journals on various aspects of environmental history.