, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15- Kenya has raised concern over Tanzania\’s plan to construct a 53 kilometer commercial road through the Serengeti National Park amidst worry it will jeopardize the sanctity of the park.
Speaking to Capital News, Wildlife Conservation Director Stephen Manegene said the road which is aimed at linking the Eastern and Western parts of Tanzania would introduce alien species in the world heritage site and disrupt natural ecological processes.
He argued that the road would also interrupt the annual wildebeest migration as it cuts across the major animal passage routes.
"The proposed site for the road is in the Northern part of the Serengeti which represents the area where animals assemble to move to the next step which is crossing the border and the Mara River into the better watered Maasai Mara. It is a very important area for the migration," he explained.
Mr Manegene also proposed that an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be conducted before the construction was undertaken.
"The EIA must be done professionally and in a participatory manner. Let the East African countries who are all stakeholders be consulted and let them contribute to a decision about the proposed development of the road," he said.
According to the Wildlife Director, the highway would also increase wildlife mortality due to collisions between animals and vehicles. He added that the road would increase poaching in the park as it would facilitate transport for would-be poachers.
"If we go back to the impact, you realize that the road which will mainly be used for commercial purposes might end up registering an increase in the number of accidents because of the clash between wild animals and human beings," he said.
He also quoted a study conducted by Tanzanian authorities that proposed two road alignments – one of the roads would cut through the Park while the other that would go round it, to the South of the Serengeti.
"The only drawback to the Southern route according to the project proponent is that the route will be longer, and the longer the route the more the cost implications in terms of transport of goods and people," he said.
Mr Manegene however argued that the cost implications of the longer road seemed insignificant compared to the long term economic threat of cutting through the park.
"Given the importance of the Serenegeti and the Maasai Mara to the two economies of Kenya and Tanzania, it would be prudent to consider the alternative route. For example the Maasai Mara is the most visited protected area in Kenya and the counties of Narok and Transmara get 80 percent of their revenue from this site," explained Mr Manegene.
A study conducted by the University of British Columbia indicates that the Serengeti is the number one forex earner in Tanzania raising over $1 billion in 2009 and employing over 600,000 people.
Mr Manegene further said that the Serengeti had been placed under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization\’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee and that Tanzania would have to comply with its obligations.
The road was first discussed and put for forwarding to the World Bank about 20 years ago but based on the recommendation of a EIA report by the WB it was abolished.
Discussions on the construction of the road have been re-opened and government funds have been made available for the first phase. A 15 member committee comprising of representatives from TanRoads, Tanzania National Park (TANAPA), Ngorogoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) the President\’s Office and the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) has been formed to help steer the project.