Stop the Serengeti International Airport

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Updated April 5, 2012

In addition to a highway through the Serengeti, there have been renewed reports that the Tanzanian government is planning a major international airport next to the Serengeti National Park.  Reportedly, the airport would allow large jets to land directly from Europe and other parts of the world.

Plans for the airport were revealed in the UK press in 2007. At that time, the Director General of Tanzania National Parks came out in opposition to the airport and the planned increase in tourists and roads. He warned that these developments would be harmful to the Park and could hamper the movement of wildlife.

The Director General was later removed from his post. Tanzania’s prime minister told parliament that plans to build the airport, new hotels, and roads would go ahead, despite the opposition.

Plans stalled, presumably for lack of funds… But in 2009 there was a that a private Swiss firm has pledged $350 million dollars. It was said to be located in Mugumu, near Lake Victoria on the western boundary of the park, the terminus of the proposed Serengeti highway.

Impact on the Serengeti ecosystem

The airport is supposedly part of a new scheme to dramatically increase the number of visitors to the Park and wring more income from tourism. The Frankfurt Zoological Society, the staunchest ally of the Park for more than 50 years, publicly warned that increased tourist numbers will severely damage the ecosystem. A spokesman for Tourism Concern Kenya, echoing this warning, said that a similar tourism boom in Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve, the northern part of the Serengeti ecosystem, had severely damaged the reserve and reduced its wildlife.

See: Wildebeest Migration at Risk From Serengeti Airport

As devastating as the increased tourism impacts throughout the Park is the airport’s location, in the fragile northwestern part of the Serengeti, near the the proposed highway.  Aircraft would land in the town of Mugumu, which borders one of the Park’s most congested areas, both in terms of humans and wildlife. This area is critical to the wildebeest’s annual migration between Tanzania and Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve.

In 2005, scientists, park managers, conservation organizations, and local communities painstakingly mapped out a 10-year General Management Plan for the Serengeti. The plan warns of pressures on the Park’s borders “from expanding human settlement and development in the wider ecosystem.  It notes that “the greatest impact is in the northwest, where villages directly border the Park boundary. Such “hard edge areas represent a challenging management issue, as it is in these areas that people have the greatest adverse impact on the wildlife values of the ecosystem.”  See map below showing population.

The Plan’s authors did not even contemplate the devastating impact of an international airport, which would greatly intensify existing pressures and spawn even more long term development. Such a facility requires machinery, road infrastructure, jet fuel, and a steady stream of equipment, spares, and supplies to support it.

Simply put, the impact of a major international airport would be devastating to the future of the park. The Serengeti National Park and surrounding conservation areas are already under significant pressure. Jumbo jets landing near the Park would certainly change the Serengeti beyond recognition.

It is doubtful that another international airport is needed for the Serengeti. If one were to even be contemplated, a far more sensible location would be somewhere to the south of the park, where the new southern route around the park is to be located. Residents of the town of Mwanza, on Lake Victoria, have made made a similar point. Read more.


There are 11 comments for this article
  1. betty murphyMaramasai at 5:46 pm

    Highway???? NO WAY!!!! Airport????? NO FLIGHT!!!!! ABSOLUTELY NEITHER!

  2. carla de graaff at 2:15 pm

    Absolutely no airport or highway in the Serengetey

    Carla de Graaff holland

  3. Alexander Samson at 2:15 pm

    Yes in deed. Something has / have to be done to stop the destruction of our world heritage. No roads and Int Airport around Serengeti. This sounds rediculous.
    Alexander Samson

  4. cwmonkey at 10:41 pm

    Give me a break. What kind of idiot government and investors would ever contemplate this? It’s a disgusting example of ignorance and greed.

  5. DJWIII at 12:04 am

    Blame the Chinese for the purchase of the rare minerals found in the region. The rest of the world should witrhold all support of the government that would destroy a world treasure. How effective is the U.N. if this can’t be stopped?

  6. Valerie at 6:21 am

    What on earth is the point of building an airport which will drive away the very animals the tourists are coming to see! Not to mention, from a tourist’s perspective, the element of adventure that comes from being so far away from things like an international airport and feeling like you’re really out there in the unspoiled wilderness (even though it’s not strictly true). What kind of moron is this guy? Is there any way of pointing this out directly to him?

  7. Grumpy at 3:54 am

    It’s all very well lambasting one of the worlds poorest countries trying to improve it’s infrastructure, but all those decrying these plans what are you offering in replacement. Will you personally dig into your very comfortable pockets and donate your funds to Tanzania??
    I see this airport as a necessity. How else are they expected to export all the poached ivory, rhino horn and animal skins directly to China.
    If the Tanzanian government goes ahead with these plans, you have the option to boycott Tanzania, (this alas has the effect of making the country even poorer, thereby encouraging government in coming up with even more hair-brained schemes) also the ball is in your court with regard to poaching, simply boycott all goods from the countries involved in the poaching trade and encourage ALL to do the same. Wealthy 1st world countries (China) will soon get the message when it affects their exports.
    If those projects go ahead, I would suggest that all UK tax payers put pressure on our government to withdraw ALL foreign aid. Tanzanian officials would then have to weigh up the potential benefits of a new airport/highway with the CERTAIN losses from foreign aid. (and some tourism)
    If they still go ahead with the projects then at least I would be happy for Tanzania, because now they can stand on their own two feet!!!

  8. Gabriel Kavishe at 3:56 am

    I really do not understand what Mr President is trying to build here.I completely disagree that those who are against such development are illogical and lack reasonable options.Yes this is another big spell of an adverse impacts on the Serengeti,the reasons for its construction together with the Serengeti Highway will explicitly remain unjustifieable and unforgivable.I wonder why we should take such grossly destructive chances?.Do we really need to have an International airport just for the clients whose destination is only Serengeti?How many Tourists or Tour Operators have had offered their opinions that they wished for such an airport?-Obviously there is none or less than 1% would pray for such a big airport.We also meet with so many tourists probably more than Mr President,and share different experiences in life including Wildlife Conservation in Tanzania,in Africa and the whole world- Serengeti Highway/
    Mugumu International Airport are unexceptional.Of all these many tourists,I’ve never come across any supporting these proposed infrastructure developments. They all think that our leaders should take a real lead of our natural resources and emulate the visions of our former leadership,Mwl Julius K Nyerere et cetera.Furthermore, I’m greatly wondering where and how the data from the tourists were collected as we have never seen or come across questionnaires for tourists all along the circuits that would at least justify that key-stakeholders here were involved,I DOUBT!Can the Environmental Impact Assessment done upon this be made public so that its made clear, that YES there are less negative impacts if such development is allowed?
    Presently, Serengeti National Park is served by 10 airstrips all connected with various parts of Tanzania including Kilimanjaro International Airport, with a good number of domestic flight companies offering excellent services all along.Now,are these airstrips really not enough to serve the tourists to/from the Serengeti, or are these airstips improper or are the airline companies not enough as well that the alternative Mr President is trying to give is an International airport at Mugumu?.If this is what Mr President has been advised through his advisory body or whatsover,then its the right time that he should crosscheck this with other proper and more reliable sources as I tend to think that he is greatly misled and therefore he needs not take such issues so lightly because obviously this reflects so bad in the existence and survival of our precious resources in a long term.I understand that some projects may look positive for a short term but not necessarily in the medium term or in the long run! From the President’s Quote:……..Still they claim the positioning of such an airport will cause wildebeests to miscarry!How can they prove that?…….” , this shows that this matter is still strongly taken politically.It would be wise of Mr President to inquire for the details of such “miscarriages”, for such issues would seriously affect Serengeti Ecosystem, his country and the people forever.From the tone “… can they prove that…” makes even Mr President look skeptical of the feasibilty of this matter-He seems to have no enough base to justify that Tanzanians and the world should accept this proposed project positively.A simple question if I may ask,CAN MR PRESIDENT PROVE TO THE TANZANIANS & THE WORLD THAT THERE WON’T BE ANY SIGNIFICANT ADVERSE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS PROPOSED INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO THE ECOLOGICAL RELATIONSHIPS OF THE SERENGETI?It should also be noted that Wildebeest is one of the few KEYSTONE SPECIES IN THE SERENGETI ECOSYSTEM. HOW DO WE GIVE PRIDE TO OUR NATION & HER PEOPLE REALLY? I LOVE DEVELOPMENT SO MUCH BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF OUR GRANDCHILDREN! Tanzania has,for decades now been an “Icon of Wildlife Conservation in Africa” thus its my advise that Tanzanians should not allow this to disolve so undeservingly.Many countries in Africa and the world at large wish that Serengeti would be within their boundaries for them to prove to the world how best they could conserve it for their present generation and the posterity and if the Tanzanian Government wants to prove this,the government of Tanzania should put “SERENGETI ON SALE” for any money and there will be an uncountable number of customers to buy it and preserve it instead.Lets take responsibility of selling it to the rest of the world and get rich if its only money that we want and see what other people will do with it.”WE NEED REALLY SOUND MIND TO DECIDE ON OUR NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE FATE OF OUR NATION”. This is a broader perspective of the effects of such an infrastructure relative to the Mighty Serengeti NP.
    “When We manage to say no to any development contrary to the long term health of our community,We will always get better development in place” ~Ed McMahon,Conservation Fund
    “Conservation means Development as much as it does Protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us” ~Theodore Roosevelt

  9. ELISHA at 11:56 am

    there is a need to built international airport at mugumu so as to boost tourism activities in mugumu town as well as senapa,hence local people will benefit from their resource.Let SENAPA benefit the people of Serengeti and not Arusha

  10. Mrosso mr. Simon at 4:02 am

    in my views most of people who opposing this projects are not tanzanian. people from kenya feared will lose tourist as they will have better access through tanzania to serengeti than through kenya. just look in very present time kenya are building international airport in voi very close to kia just for the purpose of killing tanzania airport-kia. we need that road and airport. ccm muwe makini na mamluki wanaotaka kuikandamiza tanzania!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!