Mohamed Issa

MIGOMBANI, 16 May 2012 – The East African archipelago of Zanzibar is attempting to win “environmental independence” from Tanzania by joining an organisation that promotes the sustainable development of islands in the Indian Ocean.

Zanzibar has lodged a formal membership application with the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), a regional cooperation body whose current members are Comoros, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Reunion.

Although Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, officials in the archipelago’s own government, as well as some scientists, maintain that the isles have different needs from the mainland in dealing with climate change.

Backers of Zanzibar’s entry into the IOC argue that membership will help it deal more effectively with environmental threats. Parts of the islands suffer from beach erosion, flooding and high salinity in arable land, which is itself scarce.

Amina Shaaban, Planning Commissioner in the Zanzibar government’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, listed the development challenges confronting the archipelago as including unsustainable agricultural and livestock practices, depleted fisheries, deforestation, quarrying and sand mining, water pollution, and threats to food security and tourism.

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