Tanzania Set to Build a Public Road Through the Serengeti

Aug 18, 2010· 1 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
In the future, this wildebeest will have to look both ways before migrating. (Photo: Tim Graham / Getty)

The verdict in a tug-of-war over whether to build a public road through Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park is in.

Economic growth trumps wildlife conservation.

National Geographic is reporting that the Tanzanian government will move forward with plans to build a public road through the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Conservationists claim that traffic on the thoroughfare will throw a wrench in the annual wildebeest migration.

Worse, they say, is that poachers will gain previously unheard of access to the park.

“I believe that the best way for Tanzania to conserve the Serengeti as a world-renowned national park is to avoid any development that would interfere with its critical corridor for wildlife seasonally moving between Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve,” said Dr. Steven Kiruswa of the African Wildlife Foundation, in a press release.

President Jakaya Kikwete’s government says the road will boost the national economy by bridging burgeoning communities in the northwest part of the country with the rest of Tanzania.

That may very well be, but according to a Serengeti expert, an economically and ecologically superior alternative exists.

According to National Geographic:

Ecologist Anthony Sinclair, one of the world's foremost experts on the Serengeti, said a road hugging the park's southern border would be longer than the currently proposed road but would serve more people, because it would pass through more urban centers along the way. "The road is not necessary to meet the objectives of economic development," Sinclair, of the University of British Columbia in Canada, wrote in a recent paper he distributed to conservationists and journalists.

Derek Joubert, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence, told National Geographic that if the road is indeed going to be built, environmentalists should work with government officials to mitigate threats from construction workers and poachers.

Feature photo: Sarah and Joachim/Creative Commons via Flickr