DAR ES SALAAM, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Tanzania's forest watchdog said on Friday 17 local companies have won tenders for logging in an area earmarked for the Stiegler's Gorge hydropower project in the Selous Game Reserve, the world's renowned wildlife area.
Dos Santos Silayo, Chief Executive of the Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) Agency, said the firms started logging in the area in December last year.
"We expect that the logging process will take one and a half years beginning December last year," said Silayo in an interview with Xinhua.
He said since the forest agency announced the logging tenders in May last year, no international company applied until the tenders were closed.
TFS said last year its intention was to clear the project area before implementation of the project started.
"We opened the tenders for cutting down the trees so that they can be used for various purposes rather than destroying them," Silayo said.
However, Silayo said the successful tenderers will not be allowed to export the logs, according to the Forest Regulations of 2004 unless otherwise permitted by the minister responsible for natural resources and tourism.
Clearance of the area will pave way for the commencement of the grand hydropower generation project at the Stiegler's Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve.
Medard Kalemani, the Minister for Energy, said in April last year the hydropower project will see the construction of the largest dam in Tanzania along the Rufiji River.
Kalemani said currently the government was building relevant infrastructure that will simplify the implementation of the project.
Kalemani said the Stiegler's Gorge power generation project was expected to completely end the country's power woes and sustain local industries with electricity and sell the surplus outside the country.