Monday, June 07, 2010

'There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,' says Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Such a tide is now at hand.

Over this past weekend, there has been a flurry of news, comment and outrage voiced on the pages of Facebook about a decision by the Tanzanian government, supported by the Tanzanian National Parks Authority, to cut a major highway through the northern territories of the magnificent Serengeti Plains National Park. As is quite obvious from a quick study of this map showing the proposed route (in red, with alternate route in light green) of the highway,

this absurd plan could conceivable cut directly through the path of the annual migration of the tens of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, impala and other herding animals that has taken place in that part of eastern Africa for centuries. Indulge me today, as I stray just a bit from my normal course of posting to speak to this issue.

Having spent many glorious days in the Serengeti over the several trips I have taken to that part of eastern Africa in the last forty plus years, I am personally dumbfounded to understand the reasoning behind such a misguided project. In short, apparently after many years of resistance against the idea of the road going through the Park lands, the Park Authority has suddenly reversed itself and agreed to allow this project to go forward with construction to begin in two years time. Read more here.

Driving a roadway through that area and enabling high speed truck traffic on a round the clock basis can only bring major disruption to the traditional current of the annual migration that I have been so fortunate to have observed on a number of occasions. Tourism is one of the most important economic life lines of Tanzania, as it is in many other countries of East Africa. It is mind boggling to understand why the government would allow such an endeavor to occur with its possible repercussions, not to mention the possible disastrous long term effects it could have on the rich bounty of the country's wildlife.

As has been seen in such places as Brazil, where similar such major roadways have been built through the heart of the Amazon rainforest into the interior depths of the country, once the road is there, people follow. 'Build it, and they will come!' And they will bring destruction, environmental degradation and all the trappings of civilizing that ultimately spell trouble for indigenous peoples and wildlife.

Having experienced what the Serengeti is, how its magnificent expanses of untouched land accommodate to the natural ebb and flow of the herds as they congregate for the migration to newer pastures or as they disperse and feast on the fresh green of newly watered grazing, my heart aches at the thought that such a road could cause so much change as to bring a halt to this spectacle that has taken place every year since man first left the continent on his journey to populate the globe.

The 'tide' that beckons to the tens of thousands of animals that move around the Serengeti and surrounding parks in southern Kenya, does indeed lead them on to fortune. That tide, that natural call to ebb and flow and follow the rains, must not be dismissed as something that can be adjusted or altered to suit the whims of man. Have we not seen enough of the results of the monumental mistakes that have been perpetrated against nature and other natural tides in many places around the world already to allow us to sit back and be silent about this new threat to one of the remaining natural wonders of the world?

If you have a Facebook presence and click here, you will be linked to a page established to bring together souls who, like me, feel strongly about this offense against the natural order. The page will give you more information about how you can help, who you can contact and how, in joining with others around the globe, we all might advantage ourselves of this flood tide and make a roar so loud, as to be heard in the halls of the government in Tanzania.

1 comment:

Linda Besse said...

Thank you Terry for taking the time to bring this to our attention. What a disaster in the making! Including the map was particularly helpful.Obviously, whatever sound we can make from here to discourage this travesty will be worth it.