September 22, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

There will not be a highway through the Serengeti according to the government of Tanzania last Wednesday. But if that’s the case why aren’t all the conservationists celebrating the victory?

The reason is because no-one seems to be entirely sure about what the government have conceded. The plan to build a motorway straight through the Great Migration of around 2 million animals had been condemned by the world. This week many newspapers rejoiced in the good news.

But not everyone is convinced. Serengeti Watch, a conservation organisation, has entitled their press release on the subject as “Why we’re not celebrating”. In it they talk about the fact that although the government of Tanzania has agreed not to build a tarmac road across the Serengeti, the 53km gravel road will remain, but according to Serengeti Watch there is no gravel road.

This means building one. Also the announcement of this kind of road is nothing new, in 2009 the Tanzanian government announced that they would build a gravel road through the Serengeti. It was this that caused all the outrage in the first place as any large road at all through the area will have dire consequences for the wildlife. It doesn’t matter whether the road is tarmac, gravel or polished mahogany.

Once any kind of road is there it will be much easier to develop the area as we humans like it.  In fact as the number of people in Tanzania increase their going to have a hard time preventing it, particularly as the gravel road will be the only connection between other roads currently being upgraded on either side of the national park.

Added to this is the fact that the Tanzanian government have not given assurance that they will never build the highway. The statement they’ve given hasn’t answered the problem, the people and animals of Tanzania deserve better than a squabble over road surfaces. At some point someone is going to stop dancing around the issue and actually find a solution.

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