TANZANIA, Africa (eTN) – After several months of media dialogue and wildlife conservationists against the planned stretch of a tarmac road through the Serengeti National Park, Tanzanian President Mr. Jakaya Kikwete has said the planned road will be environmentally friendly to the world’s famous wildlife park.
In his live speech to mark the end of the month of July, President Kikwete cleared the spreading fear, which has been raised by nature conservationists, mostly wildlife conservation experts, that the planned paved road would interfere with the natural ecosystem in the Serengeti.
He said the road section of a 50-kilometer stretch across the famous Serengeti National Park will not be paved so as to allow natural passage of wildlife from various corners of the park to other sides, including the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.
The stretch is part of a road planned to link Lake Victoria town of Musoma to the tourist city of Arusha through the Rift Valley township of Mto wa Mbu, via the wildlife-rich Loliondo Game Area in northern Tanzania.
The planned road had attracted criticism from international conservationists who claim that the project would jeopardize the annual wildebeest migration and other wildlife between Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
“I am aware of these sentiments, most of which are aired by people from abroad. I want to assure them that I am also a staunch supporter of the environment and will be the last person to allow something which is going to destroy the nature,” President Kikwete said.
The Tanzanian president further noted that the planned road was to spearhead development in Lake Victoria regions where tourism is taking place and where the need for transport of both people and goods was greatly needed.
He insisted that there was no way the government was going to abandon the road construction plan as suggested by some people, mainly wildlife and nature conservationists.
In terms of environmental needs, the stretch that runs through the Serengeti would not be paved. “This section will only be built to gravel level like other roads which run through the park,” Mr. Kikwete said.
“I request the environmental activists to recognize this and give it due consideration. Considering only one side of the issue is not logical,” he said.
He said he was amazed by the indifference shown by environmental organizations on the proposed project, saying vehicles moving between the two points traveled 204 kilometers through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti national Park, but no one had raised any concern over the 50-kilometer stretch of the proposed road pass through the Serengeti.
President Kikwete said the government was open to the opinion and views from many stakeholders on the issue, but these should also provide a solution to the problem of poor infrastructure people in Ngorongoro and Serengeti districts were facing.
The wildlife migration attracts hundreds of tourists every year, earning Tanzania and Kenya millions of shillings in foreign exchange. But reports from sections of conservation sources say the road could not cause any harm to wildlife movements in the Serengeti, rather than speeding up tourist businesses in Serengeti and Lake Victoria zone.
On the other hand, the road would cut down time spent by tourists shuttling between Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, and the Serengeti national park by several hours.
Reports further say the planned road had attracted hostile politics from sections of people and tourist business stakeholders who have been reaping the big profits in Serengeti National Park and who see the road as attracting more competitors.