Mara — THE number of vehicles using Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) roads has sharply increased sharply, triggering frequent maintenance of the gravel roads to ensure they do not become a burden to thousands of tourists visiting the park.
SENAPA wardens estimate that over 350 vehicles use the park roads on a daily basis. "The more tourism flourishes the more the number of vehicles increases, and there is an increase of vehicles every year," Mr William Mwakilema, the park's chief park warden told a Mara Regional Consultative Committee (RCC) meeting recently.
He said the park was spending a lot of money for the maintenance of its road network covering 1,570 kilometres. "Almost three-quarters of the SENAPA budget is used on the maintenance of the gravel roads, and this is a challenge to us," Mwakilema told the RCC.
Several members of the Mara RCC, who included district commissioners, members of Parliament and district council chairpersons, had earlier repeatedly blamed the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) for allegedly failing to improve the SENAPA road network.
"The road issue is within the capacity of TANAPA and they have not done well to improve the roads. How do they spend the revenue they get?" Serengeti lawmaker Dr Stephen Kebwe (CCM) queried. SENAPA's annual revenue stands at about 30bn/- and part of the money is spent to run other national parks, according to TANAPA top officials.
The RCC session urged the TANAPA board to make sure SENAPA had a good road network at all times. "The TANAPA board should give SENAPA roads top priority and improve them to the required standard even if it is going to cost them a lot of money," Rorya District Commissioner Mr Elias Goroi, who chaired the RCC on behalf of Mara Regional Commissioner, Mr John Tupa, said when winding discussion on the topic.
TANAPA is a body responsible for conserving and protecting 16 national parks found in various parts of the country. SENAPA is the country's second largest national park, covering 14,763 square kilometres, after Ruaha National Park with 22,226 square kilometres.
The park is blessed with a variety of beautiful flora fauna attracting over 350,000 tourists annually. It is rated as one of the world's top amazing parks and Tanzania considers it as a jewel of the nation. SENAPA was the first park to be created in Tanzania in 1951.
The country has devoted 30 per cent of its land for wildlife conservation, which has significantly contributed to its fast growing tourism sector. Tourism accounts for 17 per cent of Tanzania's gross domestic product.