(Bloomberg) — The East African Court of Justice blocked plans to build a highway through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania that environmentalists warned would disturb the annual migration of more than a million wildebeest.
The Tanzanian government planned to develop a 54-kilometer (34-mile) section of unpaved road across the park to connect the northern tourist hub of Arusha to Musoma on Lake Victoria. 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 neighboring Kenya.
Construction of the road would violate East African Community rules on the preservation and sustainable use of natural resources, the Arusha-based EAC said in an e-mailed statement today. The East African Court of Justice is the judicial arm of the five-nation trading bloc, which comprises Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.
The savannah in northern Tanzania is home to animals including lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebras and giraffes and endangered species such as the black rhinoceros. It attracts as many as 90,000 tourists a year. The Serengeti gets it names from the word Siringitu of the ethnic Maasai who are native to the area, meaning “the place where the land moves on forever.”
The annual migration of wildebeest, accompanied by zebras and gazelles, sees the movement of as many as 1.5 million animals northward from the Serengeti from June through September in search of pasture.
The road, originally planned to be built in 2012, was meant to cut travel times for area residents, many of whom lack basic services such as tapped water and electricity supplies, President Jakaya Kikwete said in February 2011.
The court issued a permanent injunction blocking the construction and maintenance of the road through the Unesco World Heritage Site. The lawsuit was filed by the African Network for Animal Welfare, according to the statement.
Kikwete’s spokesman, Salva Rweyemamu, didn’t answer his mobile phone when Bloomberg News called today seeking comment.
PHOTO CREDIT: DAVID LAZAR