Court calls time on Paved highway across Serengeti – Is it Really good news?

While some environmental and conservation groups rejoice at the decision of the East African Court of Justice to prohibit the construction of a paved road across the Serengeti, I still have my doubts.

I recall that some years ago, the President of Tanzania, trying to defuse what was a matter of growing international concern, pledged that the road would not be paved and would be a dirt or ‘murum’ surface instead. That seems to be exactly the outcome of this recent judgement.

My concerns remain. A main all-weather but NOT paved road (if that is what is now on the table) will still be a major obstacle to wildlife, will still have a significant impact on the ecosystem, will still encourage vehicles to travel at speed through a World Heritage Site and will still potentially stimulate ribbon development along the sides of the road up to the edge of the Serengeti before it enters the protected area.

It also raises questions about the sanctity of World Heritage Sites at a time when the Selous Reserve, once a global stronghold for elephants and also located in Tanzania, has just been declared a World Heritage Site in Danger.

Are World Heritage Sites really worth the paper they are written on when neither the country in which they are located, nor the international community, seem to understand or deliver on their respective obligations?

I guess we will know more when we see the details but, for now, I raise only one cheer in respect of the news that the Serengeti is not to suffer a paved highway. With an unpaved road, this wondrous place may not be destroyed but it seems to me that the unsaved alternative is the start of its death by a thousand cuts.

I hope I am wrong.

Blogging off

Will

One Response to “Court calls time on Paved highway across Serengeti – Is it Really good news?”

  1. Greer Noble-Ballantine Says:

    Is it true that as much as two thirds of the elephant population in the Selous Reserve has been poached in the last 5 years? And could not any pressure be brought to bear on Tanzania’s President? As for the highway, paved or not, the ribbon development on the stretch of highway from the Malawi border to Dar is already non-stop (except for some 80 km through Selous – but for how long?) Sadly the consequences do not bode well for the magnificent wildlife of the Serengeti. How unbelievably tragic. Can the President not be made aware of how much more beneficial it would be, long term, to preserve their heritage, an ongoing cash-cow – excellent source of revenue for the country as a whole from the tourism wildlife generates, not to mention employment and all the subsequent off-shoots!