Protecting and Building the Future of Tanzania:
Responsible Development Must Win the Day
By Stop The Serengeti Highway (www.savetheserengeti.org)
As a rapidly developing country, Tanzania is on the cusp of quick expansion in public services, utilities, and increased access for people living in rural areas. Expansion and growth is inevitable and necessary, and will clearly contribute to the quality of life for historically disenfranchised Tanzanians. But at what cost will this development occur?
BALANCE THE NEEDS OF A STRUGGLING PEOPLE
WITH AN EFFORT TO PROTECT THE NATURAL HERITAGE
In recent months, one issue has been at the forefront of international attention. It concretely represents ongoing efforts to balance the real and substantial needs of struggling people with a long-term effort to protect the natural and cultural heritage of this unique country.
A proposal to construct a new highway connecting Arusha to Musoma – running directly through the Serengeti National Park, a United Nations World Heritage Site – is moving forward, slated to break ground in 2012.
There has been a massive international outcry against this plan, citing inevitable damage to this protected environment, and the potential decimation of one of the last remaining wild migrations on the planet – the annual migration of the Wildebeest between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara in Kenya.
INTERNATIONAL CONSERVATIONISTS AND WILDLIFE EXPERTS
HAVE OFFERED AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN
Internationally respected conservationists and wildlife experts have come out firmly against the proposed plan, with substantial scientific support for their stance. These include the African Wildlife Foundation, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, National Geographic, and numerous internationally respected environmental experts, including Professor Anthony Sinclair, and Dr. Marcus Borner.
In addition, a grassroots group – Stop the Serengeti Highway – with over 16,000 members, has initiated social network activities, petitions, and an informational website designed to engage the Tanzanian government in dialogue about possible alternatives – alternatives that achieve the same goal of increased access and services for rural people while maintaining protection for a national environmental, cultural and economic treasure, the Serengeti ecosystem.
The proposed route is red. The alternate recommended route is in green.
Multiple alternative southern routes exist and have been mapped out to allow for necessary development to occur, while maintaining migration access and eco-system health for multiple protected species. These routes not only protect this World Heritage Site, but also open up transportation and economic access to far more rural communities than the proposed route.
CALLS FOR DIALOGUE HAVE FALLEN ON DEAF EARS
Unfortunately to date, calls for dialogue and systematic balanced planning of alternatives have fallen on deaf ears. While their own impact assessments warn of high potential for irreversible environmental damage in the Serengeti, the Tanzanian government continues to ignore calls for collaborative discussion and planning, moving forward with disregard for the options being offered by their own people, local Tanzanian tour businesses, and international environmental experts. There are many possible reasons for this unilateral action, and as always the political motivation is impossible to nail down.
But the bottom line remains the same – if the proposed route for the road continues forward, Tanzania, Kenya and the world may be looking at the end of an era begun by Tanzania’s first President, Julius Nyerere, who in 1961 stated, “The conservation of wildlife and wild places calls for specialist knowledge, trained manpower and money, and we look to other nations to cooperate with us in this important task – the success or failure of which not only affects the continent of Africa but the rest of the world as well.”
How is it that current Tanzanian leadership could have strayed from the history of Tanzania as a strong protector of the environment? How is it that leaders have moved so far away from the grounded cultural tradition of working in cooperation with neighbors to shape a positive future for all things given to them in trust?
PAMOJA: RAISE YOUR VOICE TO CALL FOR
OPEN DIALOGUE AND ALTERNATIVE PLANNING
This writer has no answers to these questions, except to repeat a single word – Pamoja, Pamoja (together in Kiswahili). Increase your voice to work together, raise a call for open dialogue and alternative planning, for while you may never have the pure joy of seeing the unique place called the Serengeti, you will know in the end whether it exists, or does not.
For more information about how you can make your voice heard and support the effort for responsible and balanced development visit and join:
The informational website – Save the Serengeti: www.savetheserengeti.org
The facebook Stop The Serengeti Highway page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/STOP-THE-SERENGETI-HIGHWAY/125601617471610?ref=ts
Change.org Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/view/stop_the_serengeti_highway
For those already involved in helping to Save the Serengeti, you can continue by:
1. Inviting more people to join the cause, your voice is being heard
2. Researching new information and contribute ideas
3. Signing up on the website for more action alerts
4. Staying involved through conversation and sharing of information with friends
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