Tanzania: German Minister of Development – Save the Serengeti

by Feb 24, 2011Conservation Threats, Serengeti

Tanzania’s government is planning a 54 kilometre long road through the Serengeti National Park. “Construction of the road as planned would have irreversible consequences for the World Natural Heritage, in particular with regard to the annual migration of 1.3 million animals,” warned Dirk Niebel, German Minister of Development.

“The Serengeti Cannot Die”, declares poster behind Minister Niebel at the Frankfurt Zoological Society On February 17, Minister Niebel visited the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which has been working to help protect the Serengeti ever since the activities of Professor Grzimek almost 50 years ago. During his visit, he presented a new proposal made in the context of the debate about an envisaged road across the national park.

The government of the United Republic of Tanzania has been planning to construct a long-distance road between Arusha and Musoma for some time with the intention of promoting the development of rural regions in the North of the country. Based on current plans, the so-called “northern route” would cross the northern part of the Serengeti for a distance of 55 kilometres.

The Frankfurt Zoological Society and other environmental conservation organisations warn, however, of the significant ecological and social consequences such a project would have on this unique ecosystem. There have been protests against the project since announced construction of the road in May of 2010.

Minister of Development reviews alternatives for the Serengeti

Minister Niebel proposed a sustainable solution during a visit to the Frankfurt Zoological Society. He expressed willingness to fund an international feasibility study for an alternative southern bypass of the national park. This alternative route would be less expensive. It would also create a better connection to the existing road network for many Tanzanians.

The German proposal involves undertaking a study on how to link the districts north of the Serengeti (especially Loliondo) to the existing road network (without crossing the Serengeti) and on actions for rural development in the region, and using existing German funds to finance implementation.

Minister Niebel in front of a map of the Serengeti during presentation at Frankfurt Main’s zoo In addition, Germany will take part in an international feasibility study on what is called the “southern bypass”. Germany wants to encourage other donors to give financial support to the implementation of alternative routes as part of a donor consortium.

As part of its offer, Germany is calling on the Tanzanian government to ensure that such solutions would be sustainable by passing a political moratorium on the construction of commercial roads through the Serengeti.

This is the first proposal that addresses, in a constructive manner, Tanzania’s justified economic interests while simultaneously protecting the Serengeti in the long term. During recent talks in Tanzania, the representatives of the Tanzanian government took note of Germany’s proposed package with interest.