DAR ES SALAAM, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- The government of Tanzania on Monday endorsed the annulment of 12 protected areas and seven reserves for wildlife and forests and allocated them to 920 villages for habitation, said a statement by the Prime Minister's Office.
"The annulled protected areas and reserves that cover a total of 707,659.94 hectares will now be allocated to people for settlements, farming and livestock keeping," said the statement.
The statement said the decision to annul the protected areas and reserves was endorsed by a cabinet meeting chaired by President John Magufuli at State House in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said responsible ministries under the coordination of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development made an assessment of land disputes around the protected areas and reserves and submitted their findings to the cabinet.
"The assessment by the ministries found that there were 975 villages and not 366 as announced earlier that faced land disputes and the cabinet meeting decided that 920 villages should be allocated the annulled protected areas and reserves," said Majaliwa.
In January this year, President Magufuli ordered relevant authorities to suspend removal of 366 villages situated in protected areas for wildlife and forests.
A statement issued by the Directorate of Presidential Communication at State House said all ministries responsible for protected areas should implement his directive without delay.
The statement said President Magufuli also directed responsible ministries to identify wildlife and forests protected areas which had no wildlife and forests and allocate them to farmers and livestock keepers.
"Farmers and livestock keepers are spending sleepless nights looking for farming and grazing areas, respectively," the statement quoted Magufuli as saying.
President Magufuli particularly directed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism to start afresh demarcation of areas for human settlements and wildlife conservation.
About 40 percent of land in Tanzania is set aside in protected areas for conservation.