Tanzania to rethink road through Serengeti: UNESCO

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2011 11:38 AM

By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - U.N. world heritage body UNESCO says Tanzania will reconsider plans for a major road across its Serengeti National Park that critics said would upset one of Africa's top wildlife spectacles -- the annual migration of some two million wildebeest.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said Tanzania's Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Ezekiel Maige announced the decision at the World Heritage Committee's meeting in Paris which ends on Wednesday.

"Tanzania has stated it will reconsider its north road project, which would have split the northern part of the Serengeti wilderness and seriously disturbed the migration patterns of animals there," UNESCO said on its website.

"The alternative is to maintain the 53 km stretch of gravel road mainly for tourism and administrative purposes."

Maige told Reuters the Ministry of Works was yet to make its final decision on the road which Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has insisted would not affect wildlife in the area.

Tanzania has increased infrastructure spending in its 2011/12 budget by 85 percent to 2.78 trillion Tanzanian shillings ($1.73 billion).

It is unclear if the Serengeti road is among infrastructure projects due to receive funding from the government this year.

UNESCO has urged the international community to provide support to Tanzania for an alternative route, running south of Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation area.

The World Bank said in March it has offered Tanzania an alternative to stop the Serengeti road project.

Kenya welcomed the decision.

"It is a win for both Kenya and Tanzania," Tourism Minister Najib Balala told a news conference in Nairobi.

(Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi; Editing George Obulutsa and Louise Ireland)