TANZANIAN GOVERNMENT AGENCY DENIES PLANS FOR A TARMAC HIGHWAY THROUGH THE SERENGETI
(Posted 16th November 2016)
When a few weeks ago plans by the Tanzanian Road Authority became public, through tender documents floated for bids, that the ill fated route for a highway across the Serengeti was being revived, did alarm bells shrill across the world.
Plans for such an environmental and ecological atrocity were initially discovered in early 2010, and when exposed here promptly denied by Tanzanian government mouthpieces and sycophants. Weeks later though was evidence presented backing up this correspondent’s claims, shaming the deniers and exposing them as the misleaders they were,
Subsequently did a global movement arise in support of keeping the highway out of the park and information about the organization is available via www.serengetiwatch.org
They, and other conservation groups and NGO’s, raised the stakes for the Tanzanian government through a campaign of global exposure before the matter eventually headed to the East African Court of Justice.
While Tanzania in a last ditch effort tried to derail the case by questioning the court’s jurisdiction, did the judges in Arusha however throw out their objections and heard the case, which ended in a resounding defeat for the Tanzanian government position.
Meanwhile though did SerengetiWatch and others not rest but made constructive proposals for a route around the Southern end of the Serengeti, where a multiple of people would benefit from a good road link, only to see Tanzania play ostrich and stick their heads into the proverbial sand, ignoring not just the projected benefits but also turned down offers to have a proper feasibility study paid for by both German government and the World Bank.
For a while there was silence over the project, the Kikwete regime, even more notorious then after the unabated slaughter of elephants in the Selous had become public, left the scene and new President John Magufuli entered the stage. His early actions against the poaching syndicates impressed conservationists, until that is the Serengeti Highway plans were suddenly back.
While official sources suggested to this correspondent, off the record understandably, that the Tanzanian government had no intention to violate the court ruling by extending a paved highway into the Serengeti, could lingering doubts not be entirely dispelled, as parts of that ruling also included environmentally fragile areas adjoining the park, like the Loliondo region, an area where the annual migration of the wildebeest has to pass through as they return to the low grass plains between the park and the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.
One claim by government sources though remains hotly disputed, when they describe a series of seasonal dirt tracks which on and off traverse the northern end of the Serengeti, as an all through gravel road which needs upgrading and it is very likely here, that upcoming disputes will focus on.
Regular contacts in East Africa have already suggested that another round of court battles may lay ahead, should the plans be advanced to bring tarmac right to the park boundaries on both sides of the park while more sober minded individuals are once again attempting to interest the Tanzanian government on the routing around the Southern end of the Serengeti.
For the benefit of readers has SerengetiWatch some time ago published a series of maps, outlining the migration routes of wildebeest and zebras versus the intended highway, but thankfully also included other landmark developments like a planned airport and most notably the locations of gold mines between park and Lake Victoria, which are thought to be the main beneficiaries and most ardent supporters of the new highway.
One thing though is clear from among all the social media flurry – the mainstream media is once again miles behind with their reporting – that governments in East Africa are ready to sacrifice conservation when it comes to what they think is development. This is not just the case here in Tanzania, where several articles phrased ‘The Corridor of Destruction‘ connected the many single dots to one fat red line, but also in Kenya.
There it is the government’s blatant attempt to ride roughshod over objections to cross the Nairobi National Park with a railway line and where President Kenyatta insulted critics in a way totally unacceptable in a civilised society. This saga is heading to the courts too as Kenya Railways and government appear intent to ignore regulations and legislation governing the need of EIA’s for such mega projects and where they too conveniently ignored alternative route proposals which would give the national park a wide berth.
Links to the initial articles from five years ago, today as relevant as ever before, are shown below: