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Assaults against environment multiply

Uganda conservationists demand a halt to land use change application

Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Uganda  Sep 21, 2011

UGANDA (eTN) - As the assaults against the environment multiply across the region continue, like the Mabira saga in Uganda, the "corridor of destruction" Serengeti-Lake Natron-Selous-Tanga Marine Park in Tanzania, in Kenya, too, the stage is set now for an epic battle between the conservation fraternity and developers, as a scheme became public to cut off Amboseli National Park from the migratory routes to the Chyulu Hills, Tsavo West, and across the Athi Plains towards as far as the Nairobi National Park.

An application by the owners of the sprawling ranch to get approval to turn part of the ranch into an industrial estate has been received by the Kajiado County Council according to a renowned conservation source in Nairobi, who is now mobilizing public opinion against the plans.

"Take Nairobi National Park as an example. In the old days, game migrated from as far as Amboseli, even across the now border with Tanzania and from Tsavo into NNP. Today, the land is fragmented, and the park is largely fenced off. Ranchers and farmers, real estate developers, and industrial zones at Athi River and the Kitengela plains have fenced off and otherwise blocked the migration routes. We are now struggling to keep at least some of the old corridors open but it is becoming ever more difficult.

"In the Central and Northern part of Kenya it is the same, migration between the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya, between as far as Marsabit via Samburu to Lewa and the Laikipia plains, it is ever more difficult for elephant and other game to move as they are imprinted to do.

"If we permit this ranch land to be fenced off at crucial sections, we are guilty of a massive interference in game migration patterns, and the results cannot even be described right now. Wildlife versus human settlement conflict will get much worse, and yet we have it in our hands to prevent it by standing up and objecting loudly, to lobby government, because this could have a very negative influence on tourism to this part of the country when game no longer can migrate, escape droughts, and find pastures in various places," one source said when contacted over these revelations and promptly asking for this scheme to be widely exposed, through eTurboNews and other media outlets.

"You know that when this appears in a leading e-publication like eTurboNews it makes our job easier, more people know it, global conservation groups find out about it, and they can join, help us lobby through international bodies and organizations. You need to get the word out about this ludicrous scheme where a few would get rich beyond measure and our wildlife and environment would suffer for generations, maybe never to recover from it."

The conservation and environmental lobby in Kenya has received the powerful support from the Kenya Wildlife Service, which has thrown its institutional weight behind the objections and demanded, too, that any such change of use of land be halted, citing the impact on the Greater Amboseli ecosystem, while recalling government efforts to strip Amboseli a few years ago of national park status, which would have made the conversion of land use surrounding the park easier in the absence of the strictest protection measures.

With tourism likely to return to the top of the economic achievers list, reclaiming the number one spot from the tea sector and expected to produce record arrivals in 2011 combined with record earnings of nearly a billion US dollars, it will be difficult for government to allow the application for land use change and put the long-term sectoral performance of wildlife-based tourism at risk, yet logic has not always been the Kenyan government’s strong point, and the decision is awaited with great anticipation.

Added the same source: "Our legal volunteers, who include some of our top lawyers, are ready to take this through the Kenyan and East African court systems if necessary. We have taken hope from the East African Court in Arusha even throwing out the Tanzanian government objection over jurisdiction in connection with the Serengeti Highway project, and we here, too, can make a case we believe in court to speak up on behalf of our wildlife and our environment."

Spoken with passion and resolve, says this correspondent – watch this space as another battleground for the environment is opened up in the region.

Uganda conservationists demand a halt to land use change application
Amboseli National Park / Image via

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