SERENGETI HIGHWAY RULING PREVENTS TANZANIA FROM BUILDING ‘BITUMEN ROAD’
(Posted 21st June 2014)
The East African Court of Justice yesterday delivered a long awaited ruling on the case brought against the Tanzanian government by ANAW and others, seeking to restrain them permanently from building a highway across the Serengeti migration routes of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras. The judges in their ruling said that the construction of a bitumen road across the UNESCO World Heritage Site national park is ‘unlawful’. Celebrations broke out in court and elsewhere across Eastern Africa and the rest of the world when the essence of the ruling became known, though seen at the bright light of day does the judgment have a downside. The judged only ruled on the illegality of a bitumen or tarmac road but left the question open about the construction of a gravel road along the same route, something the Tanzanian government had said they were considering. ‘They can still try to build a murram road because that has not been specifically ruled out. If they start, we shall sue them again and seek an injunction against that also. But primarily now we must lobby for the government to accept that the Southern route around the Serengeti will bring greater benefits for a larger number of people and the route is only slightly longer. Germany’s KFW, or so I heard, is doing a feasibility study now for the new route after the Tanzanian government has accepted the proposal and the World Bank and Germany have both offered to finance the highway as long as it routes around the southern tip of the park and not go across it. Knowing our government however we must remain vigilant. Today was a victory of sorts but the battle for survival of the Serengeti continues. This is not over by a long shot’ wrote a regular Arusha based conservation source when relaying the court decision yesterday afternoon.
The news about the highway plans were broken here in early 2010 and then triggered a growing support movement which via social media and other avenues rallied support from the world’s leading conservationists, show biz personalities, business moguls and many governments and international organizations making their opposition known to these plans in both direct and indirect contact with Tanzania’s President Kikwete and members of his government.
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