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Kenya warned over park highway

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 19 – A forum of international conservation organisations has called on the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments to carry out joint environmental impact assessments before the commencement of the proposed construction of a highway through the Serengeti National Park.

Under the Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Management, the 31 agencies said although the road will be done in Tanzania, Kenya needs to get involved and carry out the study to evaluate the impact that the project will have on the larger Serengeti ecosystem and the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

"The Serengeti National Park is part of a transnational ecosystem of which both countries should exercise responsibility. We hereby appeal to our government to pursue this matter with a view to guarding against environmentally destructive development projects in the East African region," said African Network for Animal Welfare Executive Director Josphat Ngonyo.

Failure to do so, the activists warned would have detrimental consequences on the two countries wildlife and tourism sectors.

"The high speed traffic will be a death trap to all wild animals and poachers will gain easy access to the park posing grave danger to the already threatened species in the ecosystem," Mr Ngonyo added.

The proposed construction of the highway linking the urban towns of Arusha and Musoma on Lake Victoria and that will see 64 kilometers go through the Serengeti National Park is scheduled to start next year in a bid to enhance the mobility of Tanzanians who have to skirt around the park and in the process travel for more than 418 kilometers.

Eastern Africa Environmental Executive Director Hadley Becha urged the two countries to consult the guidelines as set out in the East African Community Protocol for Natural Resource Management and Environment. These are environmental assessment guiding principles for shared resources and which he said present at least three alternatives to the Tanzanian government.

"We want a decision that is technically sound that will also adhere to the protocols that the East African Community itself has designed and that is what we are calling for at this time," he said.

Youth for Conservation Director Itela Steve said they have petitioned the East African Community Minister Amason Kingi and other civil society organisations to pressurise the Tanzanian government to consider an another route.

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"We have an alternative route that has been identified which goes around the park. It passes through densely populated areas and is a good alternative to the proposed 360 miles highway," Mr Itela said.

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