STONE TOWN, ZANZIBAR, 11 December 2006 (IRIN) - In a bid to control pollution of beaches and the Indian Ocean, authorities in Tanzania's semi-autonomous Island of Zanzibar issued an ultimatum on Monday to hotel owners and other investors to install sewage-treatment facilities on their premises or risk being barred from operating.
Environmentalists in Zanzibar have on several occasions alerted the government to the increasing pollution of the ocean, which they said poses a major threat to fish and people, especially children and tourists who swim in the water.
Zanzibar's Minister for Water, Energy and Lands, Mansour Yussuf Himid, said from 11 December the government would no longer issue a business licence to a prospective investor who did not install water-treatment facilities.
"As for those [investors] already in business, they are required within the next two years to stop polluting the environment," he said.
The director of the ministry's environment department said Himid's directive was timely as his office had been complaining about environmental pollution.
"Fortunately, the laws and policies have existed since 1996 but the problem has been implementation of the laws," Ali Juma said.
Juma said the majority of tourist hotels and some private homes had been built close to the beaches and "liquid wastes and some solid wastes are directly deposited into the ocean without treatment".
In October, environmentalists said one of the main pollution threats was the piping of untreated sewage from urban areas into the ocean, particularly around the capital, where only 60 of the estimated 200 tonnes of solid waste produced daily were accounted for.
"Although we have not witnessed deaths from the direct effects of the pollution to fish and people using the ocean, pollution is a threat and we must protect the environment," Hamza Rijali, an environmentalist, said.
Zanzibar has about 250 tourist hotels, most without an incinerator or sewage treatment plant. Some of the hotels are close to the beaches, contrary to a law that requires building construction to be at least 30 metres away from the beach.
According to the new regulations, a hotel operator running a business without an incinerator or other necessary facilities would be subjected to a fine of not less than US$2,000 or six-month imprisonment or both.
However, a tourist operator, who requested anonymity, said the construction of an incinerator and waste treatment was too expensive. "I believe it is up to the government to construct such facilities."