The U.S. government has expressed concern over a proposed new highway that would pass through the Serengeti plains in Tanzania, citing a study that indicates the road could have an adverse effect on the annual migration of animals there. Reportedly the Obama administration raised the issue with the Tanzanian government recently, and it could be a point of discussion for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is currently visiting the African country.
Last year, Tanzania announced plans to create the new highway, which officials say will help spur economic development in northern areas of the country. The plans immediately came under fire from environmentalists and scientists who predicted that the road would change the migration patterns of millions of wildebeests, zebra, antelope, and other animals that travel between Tanzania and Kenya each year. Opponents of the proposal even suggested an alternate route for the highway in order to lessen its impact on the Serengeti itself.
So far, all pleas to the Tanzanian government have fallen on deaf ears, and their plans to construct the new road are moving ahead. Ultimately, when it is complete, the highway will link the cities of Arusha and Musoma, although the plan now is to leave the 50 mile section that crosses through the Serengeti unpaved. Environmentalists say it isn’t the road itself that will alter the annual migration, but the amount of traffic that will pass through the area. The route is expected to be one of the busiest highways in northern Tanzania when it opens.
It is unclear at this stage if the U.S. government can do anything to alter the construction of the highway, but with Clinton in the country on a 3-day state visit, it seems likely that the topic will at least be broached at some point.
When I visited the Serengeti a few years back, I completely fell in love with the place. It is one of the most spectacular and magical places I have ever visited, and the thought of it being altered by this road is disheartening. Hopefully a compromise can be found that will limit the impact of the new highway, allowing the amazing animals that live there to roam freely.