Tag Archives: Tanzania

East African Court of Justice nullifies Serengeti superhighway

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) ruled against the Tanzanian government’s plan to construct a bitumen commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park. It was to be a 54km (33 mile) commercial highway across the northern section of the national park. The court ruled on Friday June 20, 2014 declaring the construction of the Natta-Mugumu-Loliondo ‘unlawful’.

The ruling was read by Deputy Principal Judge Justice Isaac Lenaola on behalf of a bench which included Principal Judge Justice Jean Bosco Butesi and Judge Justice John Mkwawa.

The Deputy Principal Judge Justice said that, “The proposed action by the Respondent (United Republic of Tanzania) to construct a road of bitumen standard across the Serengeti National Park is unlawful and infringes Articles 5 (3)(c),8(1)(c),111(2) and 114(1) of the Treaty (of the East African Community).”

The African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), a Kenya-based NGO and other scientists through the Serengeti Watch filled a case on December 10, 2010. The case was filed the Tanzania government to protect the unique ecosystem. They warned that the road would devastate the World Heritage Site and its annual wildebeest migration. It is often times referred to as the great annual migration of the wildebeest. Winning the case might have been a victory for the conservationists and environmentalists, but numerous questions remain unanswered for the ecosystem.

After the ruling, ANAW’s Executive Director, Josphat Ngonyo said that, “Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is a shared resource, not just by Kenya and Tanzania, but also for the rest of the East African community and the world at large.”

Annual Wildebeest Migration
The Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest land mammal migration on Earth. It is a movement of approximately 1.5 million wildebeest throughout the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems. Over 400,000 zebra and 200,000 gazelles accompany them along the way. Each year over 2 million animals make the longest journey from the eastern plains through central Serengeti and northward to the Masai Mara in search of water and fresh grasses and then return in a yearly cycle. It has been going on for thousands of years. The Serengeti is one of the very few reserves left on Earth that protects and contains such a complete ecosystem.

The annual wildebeest migration
The annual wildebeest migration
The road through Serengeti. Photo by Roberto Maldeno
The road through Serengeti. Photo by Roberto Maldeno

The need to construct the road
The decision to construct the super highway was to fulfil a promise made by the Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete during his last presidential campaign. The road was intended to foster socio-economic growth of about 1.2 million people in the adjacent communities and reduce transport costs.

The proposed road was also intended to be a commercial highway across the northern section of the national park. The highway was to connect towns on the shore of Lake Victoria through the Serengeti ecosystem to Arusha on the east. It would also replace an existing dirt road track. The study carried out by the Tanzanian government had indicated that the new highway would carry up to 800 commercial vehicles a day by 2015 and it would increase thereafter.

The scientists warned that constructing the highway to the general public would cause irrevocable damage to the Serengeti. They also warned that the highway would bisect a narrow section of the Serengeti ecosystem which is critical to the annual wildebeest migration with great effect on all wildlife, the grasslands, and the entire ecosystem.

The court’s ruling approved with the plaintiff’s argument that the highway would have irreversible negative impacts and affirmed that the construction would violate the East African Community Treaty. The ruling cited Tanzania’s own Environmental Impact Study. It also based heavily on statements issued by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

The Serengeti ecosystem includes Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve, the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, and adjacent reserves such as the Loliondo, Maswa, Ikorongo, and Grumeti. It is nearly 10,000 square-mile protected areas.

The migration season
As early as December the Migration starts from Ndutu region to Ngorongoro. This area has the short grass plains rich in nutritious grasses. It provides the herds with best conditions to raise their newborn.

The mid February is calving season. Just about 8,000 wildebeest are born every day for roughly 3 weeks.

From April to May, the herds migrate north as splits occur when some wildebeest head directly up across the central Serengeti and the mega herd starts to push out to the Serengeti’s Western Corridor.

The central splinter herds continue north to the Mara with the very first herds crossing the Mara River in late June and early July. The mega herd is concentrated by the Grumeti River by the end of May and beginning of June.

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Tanzania casts a ban on the use of plastic bags

Kampala – The Minister of State for environment in the Vice President’s Office), Dr. Terezya Huvisa, has of 15th August, 2013 told a press conference in Dar-es-Salaam that the country has imposed a ban on the plastic bags as a way that they endanger lives of creatures both on land and in water bodies.

Dr. Terezya said that “The government has decided to ban the use of plastic bags after observing adverse impacts to the environment.” She went on to say that non-biodegradable were damaging soil thereby posing a serious challenge to agricultural activities and that also the incineration was causing air pollution.

Some of the African countries that have gone a step further to ban the use of plastic bags and use include Rwanda, Botswana, Zanzibar, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mali, Mauritania, and Kenya. They have banned plastic bags as they pose an environmental threat. Some countries like Uganda have also gone ahead but it has become rhetorical as there has never stringent measures to have a total ban.

Some years back, Mali’s environment ministry described plastic bags as a “disastrous scourge” and “a menace to public health.” The Malian authorities described that issues associated with use of plastic bags include the discharge of plastic bags that block drainage systems. They also pose a dangerous risk to animals such as sea turtles, which die after eating plastic bags because they resemble jellyfish.

Bangladesh was the first nation worldwide to outlaw polythene bags in 2002.

Dr. Huvisa on the other hand noted that the Tanzanian government had earlier permitted the use of plastic bags with less than 30 micrometer but she said since the people could not differentiate the size of the plastic bags the traders used the loophole to introduce them into the market. It was on that stand that she passed on a warning to the manufacturers and shop owners that if they continue using them, they will face the wrath of the law. She pointed out that with the exception of plastic bags with 100 micrometers; the ban involves those plastic bags used for carrying products from shops, markets and homes.

In July 2012, the Mauritanian Ministry of Environment prohibited the importation, distribution, manufacturing and use of all plastic bags used for the conveyance or packing of goods, with a six-month moratorium. Substantial fines ranging from 7 to 2500 Euros may be levied for noncompliance. The environment ministry official, Mohamed Yahya said that more than 70% of cattle and sheep had been dying in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott due to eating plastic bags.

The then Environment Minister Amedi Camara went to say that nearly all of the plastic package waste is not “collected and is found in the natural environment – land and sea – where they are sometimes ingested by marine species and livestock, causing their death.”

Countries that have gone ahead to impose a TOTAL ban on plastic bags include Germany, Italy, Australia, India, Somalia, Philippines, Japan, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Belgium, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Bhutan, Malta, Mexico, and China which is often criticized as environmentally irresponsible, restricts the use of plastic bags.

Italy became the first European country to do so in 2011. France plans to follow suit in 2014. Even China,

East African Community (EAC) Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2011
On 3rd February 2012, The East African Legislative Assembly in the Ugandan capital passed a bill on control and use of plastic bags in East Africa.

The Bill was moved by Hon. Patricia Hajabakiga, member from Rwanda aimed at providing a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment through the prohibition of manufacturing, sale, importation and use of polythene materials.

Hon. Hajabakiga stated that the Bill was intended to control the use of polythene while advocating for a total ban on plastics.  The mover noted several dangers of plastics and polythene materials notably soil degradation through burning of wastes, harmful emissions of toxins and the endangering of human and animal lives.  She further pointed out that while plastics can be burned, they emit chemicals and the corresponding photo-degradation which has consequential impact on human and infrastructure.

There have been various meetings that have been called to create awareness about plastics and also visiting plastic manufacturers with a view to interfacing with them and suggest for improvements on the Bill

One of the EAC committees, once reported that Uganda enacted a law for the control of polythene materials in 2009 though the law has not yet been fully implemented especially with challenges in regard to disposal of wastes and absence of recycling facilities.