Mozambique has decided to proceed with a $520 million plan to build a harbor and industrial free-trade zone on its pristine southern coast, a decision that has outraged environmentalists. The plan seems likely to put an end to efforts to establish a transnational conservation area stretching from St. Lucia in South Africa through Swaziland and into the Maputo Elephant Reserve in Mozambique. It will also threaten coastal and sand forests, wetlands, grasslands, and one of Africa’s most important reef systems, thought to be home to the ancient coelacanth. The harbor, which will be built on the elephant reserve’s southern border, is also expected to attract as many as 250,000 people looking for work, a migration that could have drastic environmental consequences. A Mozambican government scientist who declined to be identified said, “This whole plan is crazy,” adding that those in the government who opposed it were being sidelined.
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