Tanzania: Groups Petition Govt on Serengeti Road

A network of local civil society organisations yesterday filed a fresh petition against the government’s intention to construct a highway across the Serengeti National Park.Mazingira Network (Manet) said the proposed highway would compromise the ecological integrity of the park which is also an important world heritage site.

“Direct, indirect and cumulative impacts from the proposed highway to the ecology would be significant”, lamented Manet chairperson Zuberi Mwachula when addressing journalists.He said the scientific consensus was that if constructed the road would, in a matter of decades, destroy the wildlife migration routes that the Serengeti National Park has been famous for.

Quoting the recent Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (Esia) report, the official said even if a portion that goes through the park remained unpaved, it would impact on wildlife habitats. Esia, which was commissioned by the government, categorically stated that the construction of the highway would decimate and curtail significantly many wildlife populations and critical habitats.

The proposed highway would create a demand for urbanisation to further squeeze out the wildlife dispersal areas within the Serengeti and Ngorongoro districts. The 14,000-square kilometre Serengeti National Park is located within Serengeti District in Mara Region and borders the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) in Arusha Region.

However, its vast ecosystem extends to various game reserves within Mara and Shinyanga regions as well as Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The planned highway to link Arusha and Mara regions would cut across the famous park on its northern fringes near the Kenyan border, which served as a migratory route for wildebeests.

Although the government has consistently insisted that the road would cover only a 53-kilometre section within the park, the NGO coalition says it would still harm wildlife because of increased traffic.Regional Programme manager for WWF Tanzania, Mr Richard Rugemalira, urged the government to seek options for a new route.

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