Tanzania conservation news update – Serengeti highway plans get more ‘sycophant support’


In the face of continued global lobbying against the controversial Serengeti Highway plans, which have considerably damaged Tanzania’s public image as a conservation minded nation, has the government in Dar es Salaam resorted once again to ‘fronting’ locals.

A village chairman was this time round selected to speak out against the national park’s UNESCO World Heritage Status, claiming it was ‘useless’ and had not brought development to his area, probably overlooking the very fact that he and his fellow councilors may be the primary movers, or failures, in bringing ‘development’ to their village in the first place. Sources within TANAPA and SENAPA however denied that the UNESCO status had ‘failed Tanzania’, pointing to the growth in visitor numbers to the Serengeti in recent years, to a large part attributed to the publicity the park receives as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The sources also denied that villages and areas around the Serengeti, and other parks for that matter, were ‘neglected’ in view of the many projects supported by the wildlife management body and park management aimed to support neighbours to improve community relations and percolate tourism and conservation benefits down to those most closely living at park boundaries.

The previously obscure chairman’s well scripted objection, almost too good to have been drafted by him alone, follows hot on the heels of president Kikwete’s recent directive to withdraw a pending application to UNESCO for WHS recognition of the Eastern Arc Mountains, revealing the darkening attitude in the mindset of Tanzanian leaders against all and everything to do with global accountability in regard of their conservation measures. The local media in Tanzania, when they picked up the story, also cited comments that the planned highway could be set to become a major traffic axis from the Tanzanian coast to the hinterland countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern Congo, belying government’s assurances that ‘traffic will be limited and the road not be paved’. It is here in particular that experts have already pointed to the soft top soil composition along sections of the planned route, which would inevitably require paving when the government’s own projected traffic levels will reach the ‘several thousand cars a day’ prognosis.

Last year Tanzania suffered an unwelcome defeat at the hands of CITES when their application to sell ivory stocks was rejected, and the indignity going along with it when the CITES Secretariat’s report on anti poaching measures, or rather failures in Tanzania became public knowledge. Stung by these developments sections of government started to lash out against neighbours – claiming one of them ‘led the campaign against Tanzania’ while others proposed to leave bodies which were not sympathetic and supportive of governmental plans.

Watch this space for more upcoming revelations of how this all fits into a bigger picture of new harbours, roads, highways and mining developments.