Tanzania has decided to abandon its latest attempt to construct a highway through Serengeti National Park after activists protested the move.
The road which was initially proposed by President Jakaya Kikwete in 2010 was halted after activists moved to court to stop the construction.
The road plans were then revived two weeks ago following President John Magufuli’s visit to Kenya where he ceremonially opened the southern bypass road with his Kenyan counterpart.
The government argues that the road is important to more than five million Tanzanians who live on both sides of the Serengeti National Park.
Residents find it hard navigating through the 55-kilometre unpaved road especially during the rainy season when it is almost impassable.
People would have to travel for a whole day and cover more than 300 km around the extensive park.
Activists, however, argued that the proposed 55-kilometre Serengeti highway would have killed the annual wildebeest migration to Masai Mara. This would in turn, kill Kenya’s most prized wildlife park and its biggest annual tourist attraction.
Kenyan conservationists pointed out Narok county to be the worst to suffer because the highway would kill the spectacle of the migration.
In a bid to get proper management plans and conduct studies regarding the Serengeti highway, the Tanzanian government contracted a team from US Cornell University to review its plan.
The lead researcher Professor Stephan Schmidt noted that the Serengeti highway was essential to two key economic hubs in Arusha and the Lake Zone regions.
“Locals along the route might have more access to markets for selling agricultural produce and livestock.”
His analysis, however, included the fears of conservationists in Kenya noting that the road would also kill the great wildebeest migration to Kenya.
Schmidt said the animals, which migrate every year in search of water would then have to remain in Tanzania.
“Fences put up for safety as mitigation would bring about the end to the great migration and leave animals with no access to water. The population of 1.3 million wildebeests could be reduced to 200,000.
‘”This 85% reduction in the wildebeest population could cause the end of the famous migration.”