Nairobi NGO seeks to block new Serengeti road

Saturday December 11 2010

By ZEPHANIA UBWANI in Arusha

A Nairobi-based non-governmental organisation has filed a case at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) seeking to restrain Tanzania from building a highway across the Serengeti National Park.

African Network for Animal Welfare (Anaw) sought an interim order from the court to stop the project on the grounds the road would harm the park’s ecology.

Kanchory & Co. Advocates filed the case on behalf of Anaw at the EACJ in Arusha on Friday afternoon.

Besides the order, Anaw also asked  the court to declare that the action was unlawful and infringes on the provisions of the East African Community Treaty.

The suit says building of the road across the Serengeti, the largest national park in Tanzania which borders Maasai-Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, infringes Articles 5,89,111, 112,114 and 116 of the EAC Treaty.

“The Serengeti is part of a transnational ecosystem straddling Kenya and Tanzania. It is also a World Heritage Site of outstanding universal value”, Anaw executive director Josphat Ngonyo said after the case was filed.

He said Unesco has expressed concern at the proposed highway on grounds that it would affect the natural habitat of animals in the Serengeti, including the spectacular annual wildebeest migration.

He hinted that Serengeti, which was in 2006, declared the eighth natural wonder in the world, risked being downgraded if the road was built.

An official of EACJ acknowledged receiving the suit, saying the claim has been filed under ‘a certificate of urgency’, but declined to say when hearing of the case will start.

In the suit, Anaw challenged the Tanzania government’s official Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) which, according to the NGO, conceded serious ecological and environmental hazards of the proposed road.

It cites more than 15 negative impacts on the park should the road project go ahead. were identified.