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Court Decision Bars Road Across Serengeti

We’ve waited years for this – The The East African Court of Justice has ruled in favor of the Serengeti, banning the government of Tanzania from constructing a paved road across the northern Serengeti.

African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), who brought the case, sent us the decision today:

Serengeti-Court  Court Decision Bars Road Across Serengeti Serengeti Court“In a milestone development, the East African Court of Justice has declared in its ruling today, 20th June, 2014, that constructing a bitumen [paved asphalt] road across the world famous Serengeti National Park is unlawful. The Judges have restrained the Tanzanian Government from constructing the road.

ANAW fully respects Tanzania’s sovereignty and its need for national development. However, by taking up this matter, ANAW was in actual fact protecting a resource that would be of future benefit not only to Tanzanians or East Africans but also the entire humanity,” Says Josphat Ngonyo, ANAW’s Executive Director.

“This was not a win for ANAW, not for our lawyer, Saitabao Ole Kanchory, not for Serengeti Watch, not for our expert witness John Kuloba, but for the millions of animals in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. It is a win for nature and God’s creation. Nature has won today.

We send congratulatory messages to all our partners in Serengeti Watch and all who walked with us over the entire period that the case was in court.”

Thanks to all of you who helped us support this important legal challenge.

It means that, in the near term, the threat of a paved commercial highway has been thwarted. Under the treaty of the East African Community, Tanzania is obliged to abide by court decisions,” concludes Ngonyo.

But make no mistake, road development still poses a real and present danger!

Read more about the court case at www.savetheserengeti.org/serengeti-legal-defense-fund/

Feasibility study to be done for a “southern route”

A southern route around the Serengeti is the best way to provide transport and development for western Tanzania. It is also an important way to relieve pressure for building a northern highway through the Serengeti National Park.

The German government offered to do a study of a southern route two years ago, but the Tanzanian government remained silent. Now, perhaps anticipating the court decision, the government of Tanzania has given the go-ahead to Germany to do a Feasibility Study for a southern route.

Read more on the southern route at www.savetheserengeti.org/news/highway-news/a-case-for-the-southern-route-around-the-serengeti/

Why we can’t relax

Long term threats still exists, and here is why:

There are still plans for road construction in migration areas in the north, outside of the park boundary but well within the larger Serengeti ecosystem.

While the court has barred Tanzania from building a paved road, the government still plans to upgrade the existing seasonal dirt track to gravel, even though it lies in a designated wilderness zone where public traffic is not allowed. There will be increased traffic and continued pressure to connect the paved roads with a commercial link through the park. Richard Leakey, for one, says that the highway is “inevitable.”

Development and population are encroaching. The Tanzanian government says it’s going ahead with plans for two soda ash factories in the Lake Natron area, bordering the Serengeti ecosystem. This is despite a new study showing that soda ash mining will wipe out almost the entire population of Africa’s Lesser Flamingos. And despite local opposition to it.

Development and increased welfare for Tanzanian’s people is vital, especially for a fast growing population. The problem is that short term political payoffs, geopolitical pressures, and outright corruption can turn sustainable development into environmental devastation. In the process, the economic benefit of priceless natural treasures can be lost forever. See our study of economic impacts on tourism.

Pressures on wildlife and protected areas are rapidly increasing all over Africa as China looks for minerals like soda ash and uranium, natural gas, timber, rare earth metals, and deep water harbors. Tanzania has all of these. Unfortunately, Chinese aid and investment does not come with environmental strings attached.

Add to this the impacts of invasive species, climate change, and poaching, and you can appreciate the magnitude of our challenge. We can’t let our guard down now.

And the Friends of Serengeti organization will provide travel industry support.

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