, ARUSHA, Feb 10, 2011 – The highway that Tanzania wants to build around the northern edge of the Serengeti will not hurt the iconic national park, President Jakaya Kikwete said in a statement.
"The Serengeti is a jewel of our nation as well as for the international community. … We will do nothing to hurt the Serengeti and we would like the international community to know this," a statement received Thursday said.
Tanzania nevertheless plans to forge ahead with building a road that will cut through a 50-kilometre (30-mile) swathe of the park. As a concession to the uproar generated by the project, the segment crossing the park will be murram, or laterite, a move aimed at limiting the speed of trucks.
Conservationists say the road will impact negatively on, and may in the long term put an end to, the annual wildebeest migration.
Serengeti park is classed as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and is a major tourist draw.
Kikwete said he has rejected an offer of World Bank financing to study an alternative route that would have followed the southern boundaries of the park, thus eliminating any risk to the migration.
He said the southern route would not have helped the poor communities around the northern edge of the park.