THERE was encouraging news early this week that Germany has offered to finance construction of the Serengeti Highway that would link Mto wa Mbu with Loliondo, Mugumu and Makutano and thus facilitate transportation of goods, including farm produce.
The highway will also improve tourism in the areas and increase the sector's contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At the moment, agriculture and tourism are among the leading contributors to the economy. Germany has even offered to finance the feasibility study of the envisaged highway.
This offer has come at a time when the government remains firm in its decision to have the highway built despite immense local and foreign challengers. Construction of the highway, which is supposed to cut through the world famous Serengeti National Park, has generated a heated debate regionally and internationally, with some people fearing that it would affect biodiversity.
Others contend that speeding motor vehicles would knock wild animals to death. The international environmental community charged at the outset that the highway could lead to the collapse of the planet's largest remaining wildlife migratory system. In fact, the campaign against construction of the highway has been stiffer than some Tanzanians think. Early this year, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) moved to the East African Court of Justice to block the construction of the Serengeti Highway.
ANAW challenged Tanzania government's decision to construct the highway on grounds that the road would have far-reaching consequences on the Serengeti- Maasai Mara ecosystem that is shared between Tanzania and Kenya. The EACJ ruled that the government of Tanzania should stop construction of the Serengeti Highway. This local and international hullabaloo notwithstanding, President Jakaya Kikwete has urged Tanzanians to stop supporting the opponents of this noble decision.
He even called upon the Parliament a few months ago to allocate sufficient funds to enable construction of the highway to start this financial year. Decades ago, the founding president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, said that anything that is going to bring development to the people should be well-taken and encouraged. Let the same spirit apply for the planned highway.
Things have started to happen. Germany has already written to the government of Tanzania regarding the offer. Hopefully, the gesture will be well taken and brought to its envisaged positive conclusion.