STOP THE SERENGETI HIGHWAY FACEBOOK PAGE SHOCKS PUBLIC WITH TRAFFIC DATA
In a not entirely surprising development earlier this week has the global conservation fraternity thrown its weight behind the ‘Stop the Serengeti Highway’ movement, when sources clearly opposed to the project in Dar es Salaam and Arusha made one of the Tanzanian government’s environmental impact studies available to the general public – something the powers that be in Tanzania have so far not done. This, according to a regular source, amounts to deliberately keeping the people in the information dark ages while rolling out an orchestrated campaign, singing the praises of the new road, allegedly done by ‘dishing out favours’.
Yet, as WikiLeaks proved in past months, such secrets are eventually coming out, as was the case here too and details are now available on the web for all to see.
More information is also available for readers on the following web links, allowing each and everyone to make up her or his own mind over the claims government peddles and the reality exposed by the world’s leading conservationists, NGO’s and multilateral organizations amongst many others concerned with the potential destruction of the biggest of the great migrations still remaining to be watched ‘live’ by tourist visitors. Here it is noteworthy that the present game numbers may within a short time be reduced by as much as 70 or more percent, once the impact of the highway on the migration patterns and breeding behaviour of the wildebeest and zebra herds becomes evident, leave along that the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, part of the same transboundary ecosystem, may be cut off from the herds which so far every year between June/July and October/November cross the Mara River in search of fresh pastures.
Other sites like www.savetheserengeti.org give added information as does the Facebook page ‘Stop the Serengeti Highway’ which is accessible for Facebook members and non-members too.
Meanwhile, the figures of traffic given verbally in ‘rallies’ and staged and orchestrated ‘pro highway declarations’ are not anywhere near the data contained it the government’s own document, which project an initial figure of 800 trucks, busses and cars by 2015, when the highway is supposed to be fully integrated and linked to the rest of the country, then rising to 3.000+ cars a day by 2035.
It is clear, that at that stage the highway will be tarmacked to facilitate traffic – inspite of the misleading utterances and false promises made by top Tanzanian politicians right now, all of whom are keen to get on the gravy train of mining and exploration interests, which are the true reasons for the highway in the first place.
Since eTN broke the story in June last year, opposition from around the world has been growing, and while there was hope for some time that the project may simply be an election ploy, the latest statements from the president made to a World Bank representative are clear in as far as his intentions go, when he was quoted saying that the Southern route [an alternative floated by conservationists and for which the World Bank was willing to inject the necessary funds] would not meet the highway’s objectives and therefore the original project would go ahead, after Tanzania also declined the World Bank offer of funding for the alternative route south of the park.
Sources close to UNESCO are now saying it is only a matter of time now before a preliminary warning, that the World Heritage Status is in danger, will be ‘upgraded’ and should the highway project in fact go through, the Serengeti is likely to lose its status, as did the Elbe River Valley in Germany a few years ago, when government there decided to go ahead and ruin the pristine landscape and scenery by building a bridge.
The loss of such a prestigious status however would then most likely be used by opponents of the highway project to start actively de-campaigning Tanzania on the global tourism market, a task made easier by the controversy generated a year ago when the country tried by hook or crook to get CITES permission to sell blood ivory stocks on the open market and a later attempt – by using a technicality over raw, semi- or processed ivory – to auction stocks held in Tanzania through their customs department.
Much of the assault on Africa’s pristine wilderness is today attributed to the hunger for raw materials and resources, driven by the emerging economic powerhouses of India and China, the latter of which is already notorious for being the biggest consumer of blood ivory from Africa. China’s economic drive, supported by a ‘friendship’ offensive and generous financing of receptive governments across the continent – and of course not tied to transparency, accountability, good governance, anti corruption measures and human rights – has changed the equilibrium of power and influence on the African continent, and other countries like India and Russia are now too pressing ahead with similar plans, leaving Europe and North America trailing in their wake.
Therefore, the planned Serengeti highway is a line drawn in the sand by the global conservation fraternity, and should that line be breached the floodgates may well swing open as similar plans involving lesser known national parks and game reserves will not likely generate the level of publicity as seen here.
Thankfully, conservation groups and individuals have filed a suit in the East African Court, which’ progress and outcome will be keenly awaited and reported here. Watch this space.