23rd July 2010
Amb. Juma Mwapachu
The East African Community (EAC)
P.O. Box 1096
PETITION ON PLANS BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA TO CONSTRUCT A HIGHWAY THROUGH THE SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
We, the undersigned are international conservation and animal welfare organizations, civil society institutions and community conservation groups that have the common goal of promoting conservation of wildlife using the principles of intergenerational and intra generational equity. Wildlife offers a range of benefits for local, national and regional economic development, improved livelihoods and provision of environmental goods and services such as watershed protection and carbon sequestration.
We are writing to bring your attention to the subject of a Highway Construction project through the Serengeti National Park. We are informed and deeply concerned that the Government of the Republic of Tanzania has approved plans to construct this two lane highway linking two key towns of Arusha near Mount Kilimanjaro and Musoma on Lake Victoria. We have keenly followed this issue from the onset especially that the proposed two lane highway is planned to cut through the Serengeti National Park.
Economically, the highway construction may be important to Tanzania and it will enhance human mobility. Currently traders and travelers loop more than 260 miles to the south to skirt the 5,700 sq mile Serengeti National Park. However, the opportunity cost to wildlife and to the regional tourism sector will be disastrous.
As you are well aware, the Serengeti National Park and the Masai Mara National Reserve are part of one ecosystem straddling both Kenya and Tanzania. For years, wild animals have moved freely in this natural habitat with the natural spectacular annual wildebeest migration being a notable feature of the larger Serengeti- Masai Mara ecosystem. This 7th wonder of the world has immensely benefited both countries through tourism revenues.
While Tanzanian Government officials have been quoted stating that the project will not interfere with the wildebeest migration based on a feasibility study that has been undertaken, other reputable international conservation experts such as the Frankfurt Zoological Society have warned that the development would have huge negative implications not only to the migration but to the entire Serengeti – Masai Mara ecosystem.
Meanwhile, we humbly request you to put aside this divergent ‘expert opinion’ and refer you to basic facts which as conservationists, we are convinced we should be cautious of. The high speed traffic will be a death trap to all wild animals and poachers will also gain easy access to the Park posing grave danger to the already threatened species in this ecosystem. Heavy construction traffic, pollution, work gangs and noise will greatly affect wildlife in their natural habitat during and after construction. In addition, the road will also allow invasive plants to spread easily into the Serengeti ecosystem, as several invasive plant species including Chromolaena, Mexican Marigold, Opuntia and others invade new areas along road verges.
Having mentioned the basic facts, we refer you to Article 111(1) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC which recognizes that development activities may have negative impacts on the environment, often leading to degradation and depletion of natural resources and that a clean and healthy environment is a prerequisite for sustainable development. The EAC Treaty provides for joint management and utilization of natural resources within the Community for the mutual benefit of the Partner States. It also provides for joint development and adoption of harmonized common policies and strategies for sustainable management of transboundary natural resources within the Community. The Treaty therefore provides the setting and premise for instituting regional guidelines for the management of trans-boundary ecosystems in East Africa, and the Partner States have initiated a number of processes and activities to implement these provisions. It is in this view that, the EAC Secretariat has developed Regional Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment of Shared Ecosystems in East Africa and declared EIA an important management tool for improving the long term viability of project.
In line with the EAC Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources Management and in view of the divergent expert opinion on the implications of this project, we request your office to pursue a Joint Environmental Impact Assessment (undertaken by Kenya and Tanzania) to evaluate and ascertain the impact of the project to this trans-boundary ecosystem that is of great economic benefit to both countries. The EIA will identify, predict and evaluate the foreseeable impacts, both beneficial and adverse, of the proposed highway, alternatives and mitigating measures, and as well help to eliminate or minimize negative impacts and optimize positive impacts. This EIA process is the sure way to improve decision-making and ensure that development options under consideration are environmentally, socially and economically sound and sustainable.
It will be unfathomable to see thousands of Wildebeest lined up on the side of this Highway, all disoriented, scared and unable to cross the large tarmac into the Masai Mara National Reserve! Tourism within the Eastern Africa Region will be seriously affected as tourists will be diverted towards other destinations. Local and regional investment and thousands of jobs in the hospitality, tourism and corresponding industries will be lost.
Finally, we hereby appeal to you to pursue this matter with a view to guarding against environmentally destructive development projects in the East African Region.
Organization Name Country
Africa Network for Animal Welfare Kenya