Serengeti — PRIME Minister Mizengo Pinda on Saturday backed the construction of the proposed international airport at Mugumu town, expressing much hope that it will help boost tourism growth in western Serengeti.
Construction of the airport is designed to transform Mugumu town, the capital of the wildlife-rich district of Serengeti into a tourist hub in a bid to speed up economic and social development in the area.
The Premier said the government is going to look into things that might be delaying construction of the airport at Uwanja wa Ndege ward, about 40km from the world's famous Serengeti National Park (SENAPA).
"The ministries of Natural Resources and Tourism and Transport are aware of this project. We will see how to deal with this issue," Mr Pinda said on Saturday evening shortly after he arrived at Serengeti airport where he was received by several officials led by the Mara Regional Commissioner (RC) Mr John Tupa.
RC Tupa cited delay of the construction of the envisaged airport as one of serious major concerns of Mara people despite the fact that it was one of the promises made by President Jakaya Kikwete.
He blamed the delay in the completion of an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report conducted by experts from the University of Dar es salaam.
A US billionaire, Mr Paul Tudor Jones who has heavily invested in tourism and conservation has agreed to finance construction of the envisaged airport that will enable tourists hailing from different parts of the world to land at Mugumu and later travel by road into SENAPA.
"The investor is ready to support this project and bigger part of the work has been done but getting the EIA report has been so difficult and this is real worrying us," the regional chief said while briefing the PM at Seronera Wildlife Lodge.
The Deputy Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, Tanzania National Parks(TANAPA) Director General Mr Allan Kijazi and Serengeti top district leaders were some of the officials who attended the briefing.
Mr Tupa further told the PM that Serengeti people were not happy with the contribution of tourism hotels operating in the area for their development because they do not even pay bedding fees.
The PM said, key stakeholders will be involved in looking into whether it is possible to reintroduce bedding fees without causing burden to tourists. Mr Pinda also called for full utilization of Mara River's economic opportunities in a bid to uplift the living standards of local people surround the river basin.
"I believe Mara River can be used for other gains without causing environmental threats," he observed describing Mara as one of the huge and popular rivers in Tanzania.
The PM was in the lake zone region to officiate during the commemorations of Mara Day celebrations tailored to boost Mara River conservation campaign on both sides of Tanzania and Kenya.
The river starts in the Mau forest in Kenya and discharges its water into Lake Victoria on the Tanzanian side.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has commended the Mara RC Mr Tupa for working so hard to ensure that there are no more useless fights that used to claim a lot of lives and loss of property worth millions of money in the region.
"What we have achieved is not little. Keep it up. Clan clashes that used to disturb us are no more," Mr Pinda told the RC. Mr Tupa was promoted from a District Commissioner to Mara RC late 2011.