No Mere Refinement of the Current Road Design Could Possibly Mitigate What Is a Fundamentally Flawed Idea
Nearly a month after issuing a Position Statement opposing the construction of a highway through Serengeti National Park, AWF has been joined by a growing number of local and international organizations expressing concern over the environmental impacts of the proposed road.
The highway as currently proposed would cut through the northern part of the park, severing a critical corridor for the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra, a phenomenon aptly called one of the 'greatest spectacles on earth.' AWF believes such a road would negatively impact conservation, wildlife and human security, and park revenues. Most importantly, the road would mar a national and global asset in which the rule of nature still prevails and the footprint of human activities is hardly visible.
AWF continues to urge the Government of Tanzania to consider alternative proposals that would leave the ecosystem of this treasured national park intact. Additionally, it contends that the government's election commitments to advance the economic development of the region are better met by leveraging rather than fragmenting this global asset. AWF's Maasai Steppe Heartland Director, Dr. Steven Kiruswa states "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. No amount of care in constructing a commercial road in a unique ecosystem such as the Serengeti would ever leave it the same again. It is therefore imperative that an alternative route must be considered to fulfill the good and rightful intentions of the government of Tanzania to provide better roads to underserved communities in remote districts such as Loliondo and Mugumu."
To further build global understanding of the ecological dangers associated with the proposed highway, AWF CEO, Dr. Patrick Bergin recently visited the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) headquarters in Gland, Switzerland, to deliver AWF's position on the proposed road and to consult with the IUCN Director General about how the proposed road might affect Serengeti National Park's status as a World Heritage site.
AWF continues to consult with other conservation organizations, tourism companies, and public agencies to spread awareness and understanding about the road proposal, and is supporting efforts now under way to form a Tanzanian-NGO-led coalition to work with the government on alternative proposals.
A longtime partner of Tanzania and a well-established global leader in conservation, AWF continues to monitor official government statements about the plans for the highway. Although general assurances are being given that the road will be built in a way that addresses wildlife concerns, AWF believes no mere refinement of the current road design could mitigate what is a fundamentally flawed idea -- a commercial road through the Serengeti.
Fully acknowledging the need to balance good conservation planning with economic development, AWF has urged that the Government of Tanzania reject the road proposal, and offered alternative route recommendations that would achieve similar commercial goals without degrading the park. Alternative highway routes posed by AWF experts can be viewed at www.awf.org/serengeti.
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