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27 OF THE WORLD'S TOP SCIENTISTS SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE PROPOSED SERENGETI HIGHWAY


Following are excerpts from a very recent article written by 27 leading world scientists and published in Nature.

Road will ruin Serengeti: Tanzania’s iconic national park must not be divided by a highway, say Andrew Dobson, Markus Borner,Tony Sinclair and 24 others. A route to the south would bring greater benefits to development and the environment.


Plans for building a two-lane road through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania must be halted. The road will cause an environmental disaster by curtailing the migration of wildebeest. Evidence from other ecosystems demonstrates that migratory species are likely to decline precipitously, causing the Serengeti ecosystem to collapse, and even flip from being a carbon sink into a major source of atmospheric carbon dioxide. [Excerpt] There is an alternative to driving through the World Heritage Sites of the Serengeti National Park . . . a road to the south of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area would minimize environmental and economic damage and maximize benefits to human development and infrastructure.

[Excerpt] Each year 500,000 [Wildebeest] calves are born . . . they consume 50% of the rapidly growing grasses [producing] 500 truckloads of dung and 125 road tankers of urine, recycling vast quantities of nutrients throughout the system. [This] removes fuel that would cause fires . . . maintain[s] grasslands by trampling and thrashing seedlings . . . About 1.5 million wildebeest and zebras cross the proposed road . . area, would be a significant traffic hazard [and] bisect newly re-established wild dog and rhinoceros populations, reducing the probability of the emergence of spatially distinct, interbreeding populations of these endangered species. The area within 50 metres on either side would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the national parks. Increasingly hazardous road-traffic collisions would probably necessitate fencing. . . Fences, roads and habitat fragmentation have caused the recent collapse of at least 6 of the last 24 terrestrial migratory species left in the world.

[Excerpt] The public road would carry goods and supplies, including seeds of potentially invasive and non-native species, chemical pesticides, herbicides and livestock pathogens . . . disrupt local patterns of water drainage, increasing erosion and changing local vegetation, [becoming] a source of chemical pollutants, particularly lead and other heavy metals . . . allow easy access for poachers, and create a ribbon of communities on either side, increasing human–animal conflict.

[Excerpt] An evaluation, 15 years ago . . . considered a route through Ngorongoro and the Serengeti — it was discarded because of environmental sensitivity . . . After the last election, promises by President Jakaya Kikwete for a road linking Lake Victoria to the coast led to two more evaluations: both concluded that a road would ruin the Serengeti’s status as a major tourist destination and World Heritage Site. [Excerpt] The total southern road . . . would be about 50 kilometres longer than the northern route, but could cost less, not having to climb 500-metre cliff face of the Rift Valley. It would allow crucial development in rural Tanzania to proceed with minimal damage to tourism, which contributed US$824 million to the nation in 2005 — 23% of the total foreign revenue and 6.3% of all Tanzanian jobs.

Tanzania is a developing country, with an average gross national income of $350 per year; more than 95% of its people live on less than $2 per day. These people need improved infrastructure to facilitate development, distribute goods and reach agricultural markets. However, wildlife tourism is a cornerstone of Tanzania’s economy, and the Serengeti, along with Mount Kilimanjaro, is central to the success of this industry.


Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature. “Road will ruin Serengeti” © 2010, Nature Publishing Group.

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