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Serengeti Highway Update

Tanzanian contracts awarded to tarmac roads West of the Serengeti

Serengeti Watch, a non-profit organisation founded to oppose the Tanzania Governments intention to build a commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park, has discovered via a report published in the Tanzania Daily News ’24 Tanzania’, that local contractors have already been awarded contracts to tarmac roads West of the Serengeti, writes Beverley Langkilde.

Serengeti-Road-Works  Serengeti Highway Update Serengeti Road WorksAccording to the Tanzania Daily News reporter, improvement of the road network (in Tanzania) will make it possible for thousands of tourists entering and leaving the country via the Tanzanian/ Kenya Sirari Border Post to use the route via Tarime- Mugumu road as a short cut when visiting Serengeti National Park.

The report further states that the government has agreed to skip part of the highway cutting across SENAPA in a bid to ensure that the project does not damage the ecology of the park.

Serengeti Watch’s Facebook page claims that “While the article says that the “part through the park” will be “skipped” we believe it to mean that the road through the Serengeti will not be paved, but rather gravelled. In our opinion, and those of 300 scientists, ANY form of all-weather road that creates a commercial highway THROUGH the Serengeti will be a catastrophe, both economically for the country but also the ecology of the park. If the wildebeest can not get to their dry season grazing lands in the Maasai Mara in Kenya it will collapse the entire ecosystem. Over 1.5 billion is spent in tourism annually in TZ with most people coming to see the Serengeti, and over 600,000 jobs directly tied to the industry.”

Commenting on the above statement, Xavier Surinyach Mateu, a member of the Save The Serengeti team said; “We have got more bad news. The Tanzania Prime Minister said in a visit to Loliondo (East of Serengeti National Park) that contractors who are undertaking the works on the proposed highway will be mobilising equipment to Mto Wa Mbu, Lake Natron and Loliondo before the end of this year.”

Legal Battle

A legal case to stop future plans for a commercial corridor through the Serengeti was filed in December 2010 by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), a Kenya nonprofit organisation, and the trial resumed its 3rd quarter session on August 20, 2013, by hearing testimony from witnesses for and against the highway. Click here to read an update on that court hearing.

Donations Needed

As with most cases where non-profit organisations take on protracted legal battles against government institutions, funding is critical. Donations from as little as $25 can be made to Serengeti Watch in aid of the ANAW legal proceedings.

This legal case is significant, as it seeks to permanently restrain the government of Tanzania from the following:

  • “constructing, creating, commissioning or maintaining a trunk road or highway across any part of the Serengeti National Park.”
  • “degazetting (removing) any part of the Serengeti National Park for the purpose of upgrading, tarmacking, paving, realigning, constructing, creating or commissioning” the highway.
  • removing itself from UNESCO obligations with respect to the Serengeti National Park.

The legal action states that the highway is first and foremost an infringement of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. It would cause “irreparable and irreversible damage to the environment of the Serengeti National Park and the adjoining and inseparable Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.”

Under the terms of the EAC Treaty, partner states are required to cooperate in the management of shared natural resources, notify each other of activities that are likely to have significant transboundary environmental impacts and to follow protocols for Environmental Impact Assessment.

Other obligations cited fall under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, the United Nations Declaration on the Human Environment, the Stockholm Declaration, and the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.