Map by Shem Oirere/ENR Art Department
Planned North Road across Tanzania includes a 53-km section cutting through Serengeti National Park.

Tanzania has altered its design for a new 53-kilometer-long highway through the world-famous Serengeti National Park in response to international concerns raised over the project’s impact on the UN world heritage site.

Plans for paving the stretch have been dropped. The country’s minister of tourism and natural resources says the road section will be graveled to reduce harm to the more than two million wildebeests that use the section as their annual migratory route.

That announcement dashed the hopes raised by UNESCO earlier in June that the east African nation would abandon the project altogether.

“The government will continue with the project but leave out 120 kilometers as gravel road [including the 53 kilometer stretch], which will not have a big impact on wildlife,” Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Ezekiel Maige told reporters in Dar es Salaam late in June.

“We understand that there is a lot of resistance from environmentalists,” says Maige, but his agency has to balance many concerns, including development, transportation and conservation.

On June 24, UNESCO said, “The United Republic of Tanzania has stated it will reconsider its North Road project, which would have split the northern part of the Serengeti wilderness and seriously disturbed the migration patterns of animals there. The alternative is to maintain the 53-km stretch of gravel road mainly for tourism and administrative purposes under the authority of Tanzania National Parks, as it is currently.”

The road would be part of a 480-km, government-funded tarmac road project linking the Lake Victoria town of Musoma to the city of Arusha at an estimated cost of $480 million.