Arusha — Conservation groups here are waiting for the next move by the government after it failed to convince an East African court of the merits of building a new road through Serengeti National Park.
In a bid to stop the highway road construction, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) based in Nairobi had filed a case in December 2010 with the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) in Arusha, seeking to stop the Tanzania government from building a highway across the Serengeti citing the migration routes of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras. The Park is a UNSECO Site.
Reading the judgment, Deputy Principal Judge Isaac Lenaola said that, given the ecological concerns, the plan to build the bitumen standard road across the park was unlawful, the road, originally planned to be built in 2012.
The Tanzanian government planned to develop a 54-kilometre section of unpaved road across the Serengeti Park to connect the northern tourist hub of Arusha to Musoma on Lake Victoria.
ANAW argued that the proposed highway would have "deleterious environmental and ecological effects" on the delicate Serengeti ecosystem and the adjoining protected areas such as the Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya. These would include disruption of animal migration.
The Serengeti/Maasai-Mara ecosystem is famous the world over for the spectacular annual wildebeest migration and draws thousands of tourists and nature lovers from overseas.
In addition, conservation groups, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in New York, and the Zoological Society of London said the highway would cause collisions between animals and traffic and may stop the animals' yearly movement to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in neighbouring Kenya.
In its recent ruling, the First Instance Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) ruled that the planned tarmacked road from Loliondo-Kleins Gate/Tabora B to Mugumu/Natta would damage the park's ecosystem, and that construction of the road would violate East African Community rules on the preservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
In March 2011, the German government made an important announcement - It acknowledged that there were legitimate development needs of communities around the park. So in order to avert a road across the Serengeti, it offered funding to build local roads and other projects for these communities. Equally important, it offered to help build a southern route around the Serengeti.