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Restless spirit (indulge me a moment and please read on) | by Rainbirder
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Restless spirit (indulge me a moment and please read on)

A Blue Wildebeest moves on having just successfully crossed the Mara river.

 

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem supports the largest migration of hoofed mammals on the planet. The system works because the herds are able to follow the rains north and south to the resulting fresh pastures. The herds negotiate all sorts of dangers and natural barriers but most make it.

 

Some of you may have heard of the Tanzanian government's plan to run a road throuh the northern part of the Serengeti -effectively in the path of the great migration south of the Tanzania-Kenya border.

As a result of intense international pressure the Tanzanian government seemingly backed down stating that the road through the Serengeti will not be paved, but will “remain gravel road.” In fact this is a massive confidence trick -there is currently no road whatsoever across the northern Serengeti. The nature of the roads's surface is not the issue -it is the creation of any road whatsoever that poses the real threat. Furthermore recent information has come to light indicating more sinister motives. Tanzania is currently working closely with Uganda to create a new transportation route between Uganda and Tanzania's Indian Ocean port of Tanga.

Tanzania’s Transport Minister, Omar Nundu, spoke last year about the plans for this new route. He stated the project would involve the construction of a new port at Mwambani harbor, near Tanga. It would also include a Tanga-Arusha-Musoma Railway (Musoma is on Lake Victoria in the very north-west of Tanzania). A railway running from Arusha to Musoma would have to cross the northern Serengeti and (you guessed!) -the cheapest/easiest route would be along the proposed "non-tarmac" Serengeti road).

 

This would give Uganda an alternate means of exporting oil and minerals (in addition to the railway that runs through Kenya). It would also provide the Chinese with another route for minerals from the African interior, particularly coltan, a mineral used in cell phones. Along this route lies Lake Natron, virtually the only breeding ground for East Africa’s lesser flamingos. President Kikwete has recently vowed to mine Lake Natron for soda ash, regardless of what any environmental impact study states.

 

In the past such large engineering projects could only be undertaken in East Africa with the support of the World Bank and European/US financial backing. The World Bank & Western nations have all voiced their opposition to the proposed Serengeti road but now there is a new global power with the financial muscle and determination to push this through. China needs the raw materials contained within Africa's interior and the Chinese are out to woo African nations with the promise of new infrastructure and financial support. Like the Western powers before them I doubt the Chinese will care whether they deal with autocratic governments and despots as long as the raw materials flow freely. Sadly the influx of money will not find its way into the pocket of the common man as it should. The supportive rhetoric will state that such projects as these will banish East African poverty when in fact it will simply make the rich in these countries richer whilst the World will lose two of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the Planet: The Mara-Serengeti migration and the massive Lesser Flamingo flocks of the Great Rift Valley.

If you haven't seen these great spectacles for yourself then do so now. Re-mortgage your house, sell your family heirlooms and book your flights as they won't be there for much longer!!!

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Taken on July 18, 2010