TANGA MUSOMA RAILWAY SEEKS INVESTORS
The new railway line between Tanga, one of the lesser Indian Ocean ports of Tanzania, and Musoma on Lake Victoria, where a new port is due to be build at a cost of approximately 80 million US Dollars at current prices, will have a branch line to Lake Natron to collect soda ash did the Tanzanian Deputy Minister for Transport Mr. Athuman Mfutakamba announce on Sunday, when holding an impromptu press conference in Moshi.
At the same time he invited international investors to come forward and help finance the lunatic express as Tanzanian conservationists have already dubbed the planned railway the Uganda Railway, started in 1899 from Mombasa to connect the coast to the Ugandan Protectorate at the time was equally called the lunatic express but for the challenges in terrain as well as for the constant lion attacks while traversing what is today the Tsavo National Park. In what was possible a slip of his tongue, letting on more than he wanted to say or should have said, the minister with his remark of a branch line to Lake Natron raised immediate suspicion that the Tanzanian government was playing fiddlesticks with conservation and was fully intent to create a soda ash factory at the very site the entire East African population of the lesser flamingo come to breed once a year. The same sources are now equally doubting any commitment the Tanzanian government made last week, to route the railway around the Serengeti, where it would run parallel to a planned highway across the migration routes of the great herds.
Our government speaks with forked tongues to us, on one side trying to fob us off with good words and promises they clearly have no intention of keeping, while on the other side constantly, at times more by accident, letting it slip what they really have in mind and store for us.
This development is in line with earlier predictions made here, under the headline The Corridor of Destruction where for the first time the connection was shown of a series of environmental assaults from the Serengeti over Lake Natron to the coastline of Tanzania.
The Deputy Minister was quoted to have pegged a price tag of over 3 trillion Tanzania Shillings on the project, for which a Chinese funded feasibility study is now underway and conservation sources have already raised the alarm over the apparent lack of consultations over the route, to avoid the protected areas even if the cost for giving the Serengeti a wide berth would significantly increase the cost of the project. At the same time did the Deputy Minister also concede that existing railway lines required rehabilitation and conversion to the internationally used standard gauge size to allow for greater speeds at which cargos and passengers could travel from the Indian Ocean ports to the hinterland.
Meanwhile it was also confirmed through insider sources that the government of Tanzania had clandestinely advanced route and general technical planning for the railway, the port at the Tanga Marine National Park, the Lake Natron soda ash project and the highway across the Serengeti to a level where public consultations should have long taken place and for which Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Studies should have been compiled and publicly discussed to form part of an informed decision either for or against the project. However, the same sources also speak of the contempt top levels of the Tanzanian government apparently have for anybody labeled a conservationist or environmentalist and that the powers that be have apparently vowed to push their development plans through by hook or crook and irrespective of any local, regional or international outcry over the potentially huge damage to the Serengeti and the Lake Natron environment, leave alone the Coelacanth habitat at Mwambani.
The soda ash project has been delayed inspite of Kikwete giving a clear directive. He now thinks it was the environmentalists, and the foreign green lobby who are responsible to drive TATA away from investing in Tanzania, after all the demands for mitigative measures become known. Lake Natron is the only breeding ground in East Africa for the lesser flamingos and it should that soda ash factory and pipelines and constant movement roll out, the flamingos will not be able to breed in peace and the species within years become near extinct said a regular source from Arusha when also commenting on questions asked by this correspondent over the multiple plans to run roads and rails across crucially important protected areas.
The conservation community is now banking on the legal case which has been brought by environmental groups before the East African Court of Justice, due to be heard next week, after the Tanzanian governments attempts to halt the case over questions of jurisdiction had been thrown out by the judges. Doubts remain here too however if the Tanzanian government would respect a court ruling against them and not go ahead anyway, or what would happen if the government position to build a highway across the Serengeti, and now quite possibly a railway, could be reversed and other options in regard of a new alternative route be incorporated in the plans.
Watch this space as this saga continues to unfold and indeed The Corridor of Destruction begins to be put into reality.