UN World Hertiage Committee Report

Below are excerpts from the July meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on the Serengeti, including the proposed highway. (We have put some text in bold)

World Heritage Committee
Thirty-fourth session
Brasilia, Brazil
25 July – 3 August 2010
Item 7B of the Provisional Agenda: State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List

d) Plans to build a North Road through the property
In early November 2009, the World Heritage Centre was informed about plans to build a road to the northern part of the property. On November 12, a letter was sent to the State Party, expressing its concerns about the project and recalling the need to submit an EIA to the World Heritage Centre before a decision on implementing the project is taken.
A reply was received dated 11 February 2010 and additional information on this issue was also submitted in the State Party report. Both clarify that the proposed North Road would be part of the 452 Km Natta-Mugumu-Tabora ’B’-Kleins-Loliondo-Mto wa Mbu tarmac road, and traverse the northern section of Serengeti National Park for 53 Km.
The road is a nationally prioritised project and is part of the Government’s 10 year Transport Sector Improvement Programme (2002-2012), which the State Party considers justified as the construction will enable the economic development of the Lake Zone circuit. The report highlights that the 53 km stretch within the Serengeti would be a gravel and not a tarmac road.

To date, only a preliminary feasibility study and a preliminary EIA have been undertaken, which concluded that the road is feasible and that its negative environmental impacts can be mitigated. The report notes that a 15 member multi-disciplinary committee, including representatives of the Tanzania National Parks, has been created to advise the Government on the project. The State Party notes that the final detailed EIA report will be provided to the World Heritage Centre as soon as it becomes available.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are seriously concerned by this project, which will dissect the northern wilderness area of the Serengeti, a critical habitat for some of the most endangered species present in the property, such as the Black Rhinoceros and the Wild Hunting Dog. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that, if built, the North Road could critically impact the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and justify its inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

They recall that the North Road proposal was originally submitted to the World Bank twenty years ago. It underwent an EIA in 1996 which concluded that “A trunk road open to commercial traffic through Serengeti National Park should not be implemented due to its substantial negative environmental impacts.” The EIA further noted that the North Road would “…prejudice the survival of several rare and endemic species of plants and animals and may cause mortality of migratory species.”

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the negative environmental impacts of the North Road would include:
i) restriction on animal movements and migration routes;
ii) direct wildlife mortality;
iii) habitat fragmentation and modification;
iv) increased impact from human activities, including poaching;
v) hydrological impacts and soil erosion; and
vi) introduction of exotic species.

Moreover, if the road were built, the high number of resulting vehicle-wildlife collisions would lead to consideration of fencing as a mitigation measure, which would create a barrier to the migration of wildebeest and other animals seeking the Mara River, their only water source in the dry season.

IUCN notes that road construction is recorded as leading to major impacts and losses of migratory routes in other Protected Areas. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that feasible and less environmentally damaging alternatives to the North Road exist, such as the South Road proposal.

e) Visitor management

The State Party notes that visitor numbers and distribution within the property remain a major management challenge, and that the exact visitor carrying capacity for the Serengeti has been difficult to determine without a comprehensive study. The State Party further notes that it will seek external assistance from other State Parties, as well as the IUCN and the World Heritage Centre, to build internal capacity.
A comprehensive review of the Tourism Management Programme is underway to address emerging tourism challenges and to better foster sustainable tourism management. This revised programme will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, as soon as it is approved. State of conservation of World Heritage properties WHC-10/34.COM/7B, p. 31 inscribed on the World Heritage List
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the State Party’s initiative in seeking assistance but recommend that the revised Program be submitted prior to approval so that they may better advise the State Party. They also recall that any plans for further visitor facility developments should be shared with the World Heritage Centre prior to granting planning permission to these.

f) Increasing poaching pressure

IUCN is concerned by reports suggesting a significant increase in rhinoceros and elephant poaching within Serengeti National Park. Furthermore, IUCN has also received reports that bushmeat poaching, including snaring associated with the movement of wildebeest migration, is also on the rise. This increase in poaching pressure was not reported by the State Party.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the State Party ensures transparent recording of elephant poaching incidents and carcass ratios in elephant censuses to help track any increase in poaching and allow for intervention measures and recommend undertaking a study to better understand offtake.

g) Invasive species

IUCN recalls that it has received reports on invasive species, including Agremone mexicana and Datura stramonium and that while they have not significantly impacted the values of the property to date, early action should be taken to remove these species and avoid risk of further spread and increased removal cost.
Draft Decision: 34 COM 7B.5
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examinedDocument WHC-10/34.COM/7B,
2. RecallingDecision 33 COM 7B.10, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
3. Acknowledges the progress achieved by the State Party, in collaboration with the Kenyan Government and WWF’s East Africa Programme, towards formulating sustainable water resource management policies for the Mara River Basin, and requests the State Party to ensure that these policies are rapidly put in place;
4. Welcomes the State Party’s intention to expanding the property to include Speke Gulf, which is a crucial alternative water resource during times of drought;

5. Expresses its utmost concern about the proposed North Road which will dissect the northern wilderness area of the Serengeti over 53 km, considers that this proposed alignment could result in irreversible damage to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and would constitute a clear case for inscribing Serengeti National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and notes that feasible and less environmentally damaging alternatives to the North Road exist, including the South Road proposal;

6. Also notes with concern the reports of a significant increase in rhinoceros and elephant poaching within the property, and also requeststhe State Party to review its anti-poaching strategies and law enforcement activities in order to effectively counter this threat to the values of the property;
7. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission to the property to assess its state of conservation, including
State of conservation of World Heritage properties WHC-10/34.COM/7B, p. 32 inscribed on the World Heritage List

potential threats such as the North Road proposal, as well as reports on a significant increase in poaching;

8. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property, including on the status of the North Road proposal, sustainable water management policies for the Mara River, and the status of poaching, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011.

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. Imre Nagy at 5:07 pm

    The only real constructive alternative are the High Speed Airships of http://www.nagyairship.com
    – Need no infrastructure (nor highway, no airport, no runway)
    – It can go to any place at any elevation on Earth with the speed of 320 km/h (200 MPH)
    – It can increase the entire country's transportation
    – It can bring medical and humanitarian care to all the settlements
    – It can give absolute control over poaching by flying over and using special cameras to see activities day and night.
    – Since these airships' propulsion units using natural gas as fuel eliminating all the pollutions that cars and trucks can cause.
    – Also it will highly increase adventure travel by floating over the Serengeti and low altitude in absolute safety and confort.

    That's my opinion
    Imre Nagy

  2. Romanctic2005 at 5:12 am

    The highway should not be constructed along or through this crutial wildlife migratory way from serengeti to Maasai Mara and back every year
    I hope the person who propose this idea is either ignorant of what is happening or he/she has an hiden agenda of destruction to wildlife

  3. Clive at 1:24 pm

    The UN needs to get behind this form of transport, especially for least developed and highly sensive area management http://www.worldskycat.com/

    The international development agencies don’t need to be leveraged or panicked into fighting for the Serengeti, or against this Northern route. They should have committed to the Southern route development quite some years ago.

    Quite obviously, from the above briefing, we can observe that there has been long term serious interest in developing a commercial road route that crosses the Northern sector of the Serengeti. As someone who has travelled extensively through the areas one has to consider that the road would bring servcie providers, as it does where the major Southern highway road passes through Mikumi National Park.

    We should not forget that the Serengeti is surrounded by those living in poverty while the park is the playground for science, executives from conservation, filming projects and tourists. Their net contribution to the National Parks income is insufficient to sustain the parks management.

    Given that we are discussing one of the most globally renowned conservation areas in the world we should be exceptionally mindful that the weak international support for area has led to the ability of quite small traders, with vested interests, to challenge the status of this Worl Heritage location.

    In truth these trader communities know very well the history and formation of the Serengeti National Park and for many years the communities have been keen to open up road routes. Their reasoning has everything to do with lifting their communities out of poverty, opening up enterprise opportunity and aspiring to live modern day lives. They have been observing the wealth of the Serengeti visitors for many years and they would like some of that action. At one and the same time these communities also place a high value on the trade that tourism brings to their region.They know that a decline in tourism would harm thier fragile economy.

    There should be a Southern route road under any circumstances but this will not remove the pressure to deliver a route that bisects the North of the Serengeti. It’s not in the interests of UNESCO or other concerned parties to fight against the Serengeti route it is very much in the interests of all parties to deliver long term solutions that result in developments that enhance conservation while promoting the wellbeing of the communities throughout the regions.

    As someone who has travlled extensively throughout the regions for over 30 years it is clear to myself that the drives to improve health, access to water and improved economic activity would always promote aspirations for modernisation with ever increasing desires to obtain goods and servcies. These sentiments are not going to drift away or be put off because, the values placed upon conservation are insufficient to deliver improved regional lifestyles.

    Observers should take note that only a tiny fraction of the over all commercial economic returns from having the Serengeti, and many other WH locations maintained as conservation areas, actually benefits the region or conservation area directly. Many would be suprised that very few native Tanzanian’s (East African’s Generally) have ever travelled to or had the benefit of knowing what the game parks and reserves hold in safe keeping for the world. It’s little wonder that there are frequently expressions of being excluded.

    On the poaching of animals we should know that this is stimulated, not for bushmeat, but by wealth driven interests seeking to circumvent international conventions for percieved personal gain. These are not poor people without the benefit of higher education they are frequently individuals from the pinical of wealthy nations. Not only do they know that what they promote or engage with to be wrong they do so because they can, for the sake of a couple of thousand disposable dollars here and there they can have their whims attended to. These are the extra special tourists, frequently leaders of nations, away from the public gaze of secure accountability.

    Keep in mind also that the Serengeti is a wild place for animals but its no place for the general human population for quite a few months of the year. Its a very dangerous place when the rains come. Any road across the Northern sector would be frequently washed out subject to erosion continually unless over built to standards far in excess of those proposed. In a nut shell anything less than a first class highway build would be next to useless for considerable times in a year. Far better to build a road on the South that would suffer less, so having 24×7 365 utility.

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