Environmental issues in TanzaniaSerengeti highway threatens national park’s wildebeest migration (The Guardian, April 2011)
International pressure is growing on the Tanzanian government to shelve its controversial plans to build a two-lane highway across the Serengeti, one of the most important wildlife sites in the world.
Scientists claim that the road will slice directly across the annual migration route of 1.5m wildebeest, effectively destroying the life cycle of the species and bringing the ecosystem of the national park crashing down with it.
Tourists, conservationists, individuals, and tour companies have launched an international outcry against the Tanzanian authorities in response to the announcement of the planned construction of the trans-Serengeti Highway highway. There is even a Facebook group and an online petition with 5,038 signatures. But the government has responded by saying that the plans are still on course.
In a recent interview, the Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Shamsa Mwangunga, made it clear that the decision is simply to fulfill a campaign promise made by President Jakaya Kikwete in 2005, that the fourth phase administration would complete construction of the $480 million Arusha-Musoma road. She said the main reason for constructing the road connecting Arusha-Musoma was to satisfy public interests – the current option is a 418km route that skirts around the southern end of the Serengeti National Park.
A major highway threatens the very fabric and survival of the Serengeti National Park as we know it. Never before in its history has the world’s greatest wildlife heritage faced such an uncertain future.
Over 1.3 million wildebeest and zebras participate in one of the worlds greatest spectacles, The great migration in Kenya and Tanzania. But this could end in a matter of years, the Tanzanian authorities have just approved the construction of a commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park to develop the northern and western towns along Lake Victoria. Executive Director of WildlifeDirect, Dr. Paula Kahumbu, interviewed renowned conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey, to understand the consequences of a strip of tarmac across the path of millions of migrating animals, and discusses the alternative options that the Tanzanian authorities have for development in this impoverished region.
Listen to the podcast here – Richard Leakey comments on Serengeti Highway
A majority of Tanzanians live off the land – what grows from its soil, and the species that roam it. But these resources are scarce. Today, a host of problems are hindering environmentally sustainable development in the country, whether on land or at sea.
- Illegal and unsustainable deforestation
- Overgrazing and unsustainable range management
- Illegal and unsustainable wildlife exploitation
Three years after adopting the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) approach, Tanzania will be taking another step, embarking on the second phase with a nationwide framework putting poverty reduction high on the country’s development agenda.