The Tanzanian Government reinstate their plans to build a highway across the Serengeti National Park past the shores of Lake Natron. The road, which would link Tanzania with Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo, was discussed with the World Bank 20 years ago but was rejected due to environmental reasons.
"There is no alternative to the Serengeti National Park, but there are many alternative areas for building an effective road system" said Lota Melamari, then CEO of Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (BirdLife in Tanzania)
Launch of RSPB letter writing campaign
The World Heritage Convention discusses the case at its 34th Committee meeting in Brazil and expresses serious concerns. The Committee adopts a decision urging Tanzania to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment to the World Heritage Convention before a decision to implement the project is taken
An Environmental Impact Assessment of the highway is underway and if approved, the project could commence in 2012
The Government of Tanzania continue to support the proposed road across the Serengeti. Our letter writing campaign is having an impact as the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism has been inundated with letters from individuals and organisations. She has noted all comments and agreed that the Environmental Impact Assessment will be shared with the World Heritage Convention before a final decision is made.
WCST (BirdLife in Tanzania) is convening a national meeting with other environmental NGOs to discuss setting up a joint national campaign
A survey of travel industry professionals around the world finds that a commercial route through the Serengeti National Park will have a disastrous impact on Tanzania’s tourist industry. Some believe the impact has already begun. The government of Tanzania is also sent a petition "Travel Industry Against The Serengeti Highway".
The European Commission expresses deep concern about the proposed Serengeti road in a response to MEP questions. It states 'The Commission, as Chair of the Infrastructure Partner group in Tanzania, has led the way in raising this issue in numerous policy dialogue meetings with the Government of Tanzania. It has repeatedly sought clarification from the Government as to its precise intentions. In spite of these representations and numerous written reminders, no clear information has been provided'.
A joint World Heritage Centre-IUCN monitoring mission is organised to the Serengeti to look at the implications of the road and other conservation issues. While in Tanzania the members of the mission meet WCST.
An African conservation group, Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) files a case at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) seeking to stop Tanzania from constructing the Serengeti highway.
While attending the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, President Kiwete reiterates his Government's commitment to the Serengeti road saying its necessary to ease transport problems for local communities around the Park. But he states that the 54km section of road through the national Park will be unpaved not tarmac.
A leaked draft of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) is published on the Save the Serengeti website. This concludes that the road will have a serious impact on the 'uniqueness' of the Serengeti.
The World Bank offers to assist in financing the southern route as an alternate to the planned road through the Serengeti. Germany offers to finance the cost of the associated feasibility study.
The Serengeti case is discussed at the World Heritage Convention Committee meeting held in Paris. The Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism addresses the meeting saying that in response to stakeholder concerns the road across the Serengeti will be gravel. We then have the opportunity to present a joint NGO statement to the meeting. Under pressure, the Tanzanian government provides a written statement to the World Heritage Centre explaining that an approximately 122 km stretch of the road through and near the Park will be gravel not tarmac, the road will be controlled by the National Park Authority and will be for the same level of traffic as currently ie mostly tourists, not commercial traffic. Also that they will seriously consider the southern alternative road (which avoids the park). While we are pleased this is a step in the right direction, it does not yet ensure that the Serengeti will be safe and we will continue to follow the case.
After the Tanzanian statement at last year's World Heritage Convention (WHC) meeting we were cautiously optimistic. But alarm bells are now ringing again. The Tanzanian authorities have been progressing the plans for the eastern stretch of the Serengeti road (outside and to the east of the Park) and we understand that some commercial traffic is already passing through the Park. There has been no progress on studying an alternative southern route, despite offers of funding from the World Bank and German and US Governments. We fear this piece-meal development of the eastern stretch of the road in advance of any studies of alternatives will further increase pressure for the section of the road through the Serengeti to be upgraded. In these worrying times we are asking the WHC, which is about to meet in St Petersburg, Russia, to adopt a strong decision.