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Tanzania's Serengeti road halt 'no reason to celebrate'

Source:  Copyright 2011, Agence France-Presse
Date:  June 26, 2011
Original URL: Status DEAD

Tanzania's decision to scrap plans to build a highway through the Serengeti national park is no cause for celebration, conservationists said on Sunday, warning that development will continue.

"Those who want a true commercial highway (through the Serengeti) clearly cannot achieve it now. But they can make inroads and connect the dots later," Serengeti Watch said in a statement.

Tanzania's government has informed UNESCO's World Heritage Committee that it will continue with its proposal to build a highway through the north but without the 53 kilometre (33 mile) stretch crossing the national park.

"The World Heritage Committee has received assurance on the part of the Tanzanian government that the highway project is abandoned," an official at the UN's education, science and culture organisation told AFP on Saturday.

"The committee has therefore decided not to list the site on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites because the threat has disappeared."

Critics of the project said it would destroy what scientists consider to be the largest remaining migratory system on Earth.

Each year two million herbivores make their way from the Serengeti park to the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya -- one of the planet's greatest natural spectacles and a major tourist draw.

Serengeti Watch, which campaigns to preserve the Serengeti's ecosystem, said in a statement entitled "Why We're Not Celebrating": "Unfortunately, some in the media have claimed a great victory for conservation, believing that plans for a road across the Serengeti have been stopped.

"Some conservation organisations have diplomatically praised President (Jakaya) Kikwete for his wisdom.

"But we do not share this view, knowing that those who have pushed for a commercial route through the Serengeti can claim their victory as well."

If their plans continue, the group said, "the way will be paved for more development."

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