As you may or may not be aware, there is a proposed highway, set to be built in northern Tanzania, which will essentially bisect the Serengeti ecosystem.
The construction of the new tarmac highway, some 420 kilometres long, would link the Arusha and Mara regions. The general idea behind the proposal is that the new highway will link the town of Arusha (the gateway to Tanzania’s northern circuit) with the Lake Victoria town of Musoma. The road would go through the Rift Valley township of Mto wa Mbu and the wildlife-rich Loliondo Game Area. There is a stretch of about 50-60 kilometres which would pass through the Serengeti National Park, from Klein’s Gate to Tabora.
Ziara safaris would normally commend an attempt to make tourism at the beautiful shores of Lake Victoria easier and more accessible, and agrees that improvement in the transport of both people and goods is greatly needed in the area. However, we find the current proposals for the construction of such a road reckless and short-sighted. There is no doubt that the construction of this highway would have a direct negative impact on the functioning of the Serengeti ecosystem.
The new road could adversely and dramatically affect the migration of the wildebeest – a journey which has taken place year after year for time immemorial. That alone means that millions of animals are already affected, before even considering the knock-on effect it will have on vultures, lions, leopards and other predators of the wildebeest.
Then, there is the fact that this road would be in direct conflict with UNESCO protocol, potentially leading to the down-listing or even removal of the Serengeti from the UNESCO World Heritage List altogether.
On top of that, the possibility of vehicle collisions involving wildlife, and of course passengers, is almost to terrible to think about.
Poaching, a problem which has been hugely reduced in recent years but still needs addressing, would only increase with the introduction of the new highway. Areas which are currently remote and difficult to access would be opened up – to people with bad intentions as well as good. Any future plans for reintroduction of endangered, vulnerable or rare species would be immediately countered by the presence of the road.
Even if it were never used by a single vehicle, the process of building the road itself would lead to catastrophic consequences for the sensitive flora and fauna of the Serengeti ecosystem. Construction, noise, pollution, traffic and heavy human presence in areas normally completely uninhabited by humans could only spell disaster.
Sadly, the Tanzanian President shows no sign of retreating or rethinking the plans for the road constriction. During a speech in July 2010, broadcasted live, he made clear his intentions, insisting that there was no way the government would reconsider their plans, despite heavy campaigning by conservationists and TATO (the Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators) amongst others.
Moreover, the simple fact of the matter is that there is an alternative, which would benefit tourism in Lake Victoria (and northern Tanzania in general), improve transport links between the Arusha and Mara regions, and would not adversely affect the Serengeti ecosystem. The so-called Southern Route, through the Lake Zone south of the Serengeti Ecosystem, would be around 380 kilometres (40 kilometres shorter than the proposed route) and, according to TATO statistics, would serve more than 5 times the number of people than the proposed route. The area is agriculturally developed and already quite populated, making it generally more useful.
We do not want the Tanzanian Government to jeopardise its own crucially important tourism income (millions of dollars each year), along with hundreds of thousands of tourism-industry jobs, and we do not want the amazing flora and fauna of this wonderful country to be damaged beyond repair.
If you feel the same way, please sign here.