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)
UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION
CONVENTION CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF THE WORLD CULTURAL AND NATURAL HERITAGE
World Heritage Committee
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.