Anti Serengeti highway coalition takes to the net


(eTN) As recently reported here on eTurboNews, the Tanzanian government appears set to build a highway through the Serengeti to Lake Victoria, claiming this to be the most direct and, therefore, most affordable route. While no one argues that the population along the lake – and outside the national park – is in need of a road connecting them to the rest of the country, opponents of the planned highway are pointing out that an alternate route is possible, albeit longer and, therefore, more costly. The alternate route would, however, preserve the UNESCO World Heritage status of the Serengeti, which – should the road construction go ahead – would almost inevitably be withdrawn.

Tourism circles in the region are slowly catching on to the plans and are starting a concerted campaign of action, to prevent the development. This, according to two senior sources in Dar es Salaam and Arusha and another source in Nairobi, will include providing detailed information on the likely impact of the highway on the population of elephant, wildebeest, and zebras, which migrate regularly through the area and also resident populations of predators.

The potential loss of revenue for the country through lesser tourist numbers and the resulting negative global publicity could be massive, and funding from donors, development partners, and through individual donations could dry up. There are also growing concerns on the possible impact of the highway on the annual migration between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara across the border in Kenya, likely also resulting in disastrous fallout for tourism activities there.

Visit the following site on Facebook to get more information and join the growing ranks of opponents of this particular highway routing.

In a related development, information was obtained that a study on the impact of livestock on the Grumeti and Ikorongo game reserves, adjoining the Serengeti National Park will soon be completed. This study will assist in addressing the conflict between human settlements and activities on the prized wildlife, which draws in so many visitors and earns the country so much foreign exchange.

The prolonged drought in recent years, which only broke at the very end of 2009, has undoubtedly contributed towards a more lenient approach towards cattle and goat herds being driven into the protected areas, as they were searching for pasture and water. With the drought now over, it is time to restore the balance and ensure that livestock are kept away from parks and reserves. In particular, the Grumeti and Ikorongo areas now also have upmarket tourist accommodation, and the owners will also be seeking governmental assurances and protection to ensure the cattle herds are kept away.

It is understood that similar studies are underway also in other parts of Tanzania, aimed to alleviate similar conflicts between traditional herdsmen and wildlife managers and tourism operators, a sign that the potential severity of this problem has reached senior governmental levels and that some action is being taken to protect and preserve the country’s wildlife and biodiversity.