RESIDENTS of Serengeti District in Mara Region, while travelling in their district which hosts a large part of Serengeti National Park (SENAPA), miss the comfortable feel of a tarmac road.
Serengeti National Park is one of the country's major tourist destinations. Johanas Matiko (50) is one of many Serengeti residents who are now happy with latest reports confirmed by Tanzania National Roads Agency (TANROADS) that construction of tarmac highway running from Makutano Juu in Musoma to Mugumu town is expected to start any time soon.
Mugumu town is the headquarters of Serengeti District and the entire town has been going with network of tarmac road for decades. The town located approximately 40 kilometres away from SENAPA has gravel roads as in the case with rural roads in the district.
"The last time I saw a tarmac road in Mwanza in 1992 and most of fellow villagers have never seen a tarmac road. We are indeed happy to hear that the government is now constructing a tarmac road in our district.
We have heard it as a normal history but now we have every reason to smile if the reports are true," Matiko, a small peasant in Serengeti district, said. Matiko noted construction of the highway will also help to cut down transport costs that Serengeti people have been spending when travelling to neighbouring towns of the lake zone regions such Musoma and Bunda. "Owners of commuter vehicles charge us too much money on grounds that the dusty roads are bad. We believe the tarmac road will come to relive us," Matiko said.
Ahead of the commencement of the construction of the new highway to kick off, TANROADS has in the recent days been holding crucial talks with the contractor as part of final stages. "The road will be constructed phase by phase and after the discussions with the contractor, construction work will start immediately", Engineer Emmanuel Korosso, the Mara Regional TANROADS Manager, told the 'Daily News' early this month.
Execution of the project will kick off with 50 kilometres running from Makutano Juu- Sanzate area, which borders some rural villages of Serengeti and Bunda districts. The next phase of the project will involve Sanzate - Natta-Mugumu road covering around 74 km, according to Eng. Korosso. Construction of the highway constitutes implementation of a promise made to Mara residents by President Jakaya Kikwete a few years ago.
The much awaited highway popularly known as Makutano Juu - Mto Wa Mbu is also meant to link Mara and Arusha regions through SENAPA, a move aimed to uplift living standards of local communities residing near the world famous park. The government of Tanzania says execution of the project will skip 53 km, cutting across SENAPA, in order to avert any harm on the park's ecology.
Linking of Serengeti residents with a tarmac road network is tipped to be one of the greatest achievements that will be registered by President Kikwete's government in Serengeti District. Business community is predicting a business boom in Mara Region upon completion of the project. "The tarmac road will boost economy of Serengeti district and Mara Region as a whole.
The highway will also create business opportunities between Serengeti and Musoma town," said Mr Vedastus Mathayo, one of the serious local investors on Mara tourism sector. Mr Mathayo, who is also member for National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) in Musoma Urban, said construction of the road will significantly boost development of tourism and travel sectors in the region, which hosts large part of Lake Victoria beaches.
"A tarmac road in place travelling from Serengeti to Musoma town will take an hour and shorter than the trip today which takes hours. It will also be a short cut for foreign tourists visiting SENAPA", Mr Mathayo who also served as member of parliament for Musoma urban on CCM ticket between 2005 - 2010, said. Lucas Mororo, a Mugumu based trader who owns several commuter vehicles welcomed construction of the tarmac road, saying that implementation of the project will clear the way for the ruling party, CCM, to register a big victory come 2015 general elections.
"We people of Serengeti have not had a tarmac road for many years. If it is true, CCM will win elections here in 2015. I am now planning to buy new commuter vehicles that will be suitable for tarmac roads," Mororo told the 'Daily News'. Mara is one of the top Tanzanian mainland regions with the best road network. Construction of the new highway will significantly boost further development, of road transport sector in the area.
The government has been pumping millions of shillings to improve road network covering 1274.9 kilometres and about 254 bridges maintained by TANROADS in the region every financial year. Improvement of regional roads such as Tarime- Mugumu highway, (although gravel) has considerably helped to contribute to development of the booming tourism sector in western corridors, according to stakeholders within the industry.
Serengeti District residents have also been connected with the national power grid during the fourth phase government. The lighting that has greatly helped to speed up social and economic development in the district was inaugurated by President Kikwete several years ago.
The area residents have also witnessed completion of the multimillion Manchira Dam, which now supplies clean water to Mugumu town. The surrounding villagers and the Dam was inaugurated by the head of the nation in 2010. The fourth-phase government coughed up over 10bn/- to complete construction of one of the country's largest dams.