Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mara River Water User's Association - Presentation in New York

The Equator Initiative has just posted the Mara River Water User's Association's Presentation from New York on their website.

Also, be sure to stop by the Equator Initiative site.  There is a nice picture of Kennedy (Director of the MRWUA) attending a high level biodiversity event on their front page.  Follow their link and you can read more about the event honoring all the Equator Initiative Prize Winners.

Serengeti Road Project Worries Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15- Kenya has raised concern over Tanzania's plan to construct a 53 kilometer commercial road through the Serengeti National Park amidst worry it will jeopardize the sanctity of the park. 

Speaking to Capital News, Wildlife Conservation Director Stephen Manegene said the road which is aimed at linking the Eastern and Western parts of Tanzania would introduce alien species in the world heritage site and disrupt natural ecological processes.

He argued that the road would also interrupt the annual wildebeest migration as it cuts across the major animal passage routes.

"The proposed site for the road is in the Northern part of the Serengeti which represents the area where animals assemble to move to the next step which is crossing the border and the Mara River into the better watered Maasai Mara. It is a very important area for the migration," he explained. 

Mr Manegene also proposed that an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be conducted before the construction was undertaken.

"The EIA must be done professionally and in a participatory manner. Let the East African countries who are all stakeholders be consulted and let them contribute to a decision about the proposed development of the road," he said.

According to the Wildlife Director, the highway would also increase wildlife mortality due to collisions between animals and vehicles. He added that the road would increase poaching in the park as it would facilitate transport for would-be poachers.

"If we go back to the impact, you realize that the road which will mainly be used for commercial purposes might end up registering an increase in the number of accidents because of the clash between wild animals and human beings," he said. 

He also quoted a study conducted by Tanzanian authorities that proposed two road alignments - one of the roads would cut through the Park while the other that would go round it, to the South of the Serengeti.

"The only drawback to the Southern route according to the project proponent is that the route will be longer, and the longer the route the more the cost implications in terms of transport of goods and people," he said. 

Mr Manegene however argued that the cost implications of the longer road seemed insignificant compared to the long term economic threat of cutting through the park.

"Given the importance of the Serenegeti and the Maasai Mara to the two economies of Kenya and Tanzania, it would be prudent to consider the alternative route. For example the Maasai Mara is the most visited protected area in Kenya and the counties of Narok and Transmara get 80 percent of their revenue from this site," explained Mr Manegene.

A study conducted by the University of British Columbia indicates that the Serengeti is the number one forex earner in Tanzania raising over $1 billion in 2009 and employing over 600,000 people.

Mr Manegene further said that the Serengeti had been placed under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee and that Tanzania would have to comply with its obligations. 

The road was first discussed and put for forwarding to the World Bank about 20 years ago but based on the recommendation of a EIA report by the WB it was abolished.

Discussions on the construction of the road have been re-opened and government funds have been made available for the first phase. A 15 member committee comprising of representatives from TanRoads, Tanzania National Park (TANAPA), Ngorogoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) the President's Office and the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) has been formed to help steer the project.

Read more: 
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Who cares what happens to the Mara?

Just saw this news article and found it interesting.  Here is an excerpt...

Mohamed Mohiedeen is an Egyptian sociologist who has long been critical of Egypt's stance on regional Nile issues.

"We think we are unique. We think that we are superior. There is a 1929 and a 1959 agreement and they are recognized by the international community, and whatnot and all that," Mohiedeen says. "But the other part of the story is we are not doing the necessary things to ease our own problems."

Egypt and neighboring Sudan are refusing to sign a new agreement with other Nile basin countries to more equitably share the water. But if the other countries agree to the old colonial guarantees, it could be hydro-suicide for them.

John Nyaro is Kenya's chief negotiator among the Nile basin countries. A number of Kenya's rivers empty into Lake Victoria, at the beginning of the White Nile.

"We cannot convince our people that that water belongs to Egypt or Sudan or another country," Nyaro says. "In Mara, Maasai Mara, if a Maasai is crossing the river Mara with his cattle, can he convince those cows, 'No, you cannot drink this water. This water belongs to Egypt?'"

Mohiedeen says the only way forward is to lower expectations for water usage within Egypt. Chances are Egyptians will continue making do with less, he says.

Just another remind of the international importance of maintaining flows in the Mara River.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pink Hippo

I was not going to post on this but I am now because it seems like people have become captivated by the sighting of a pink hippo in the Mara.

Rare Pink Hippo Discovered in the Masai Mara

Interesting to note that a hippo with reduced pigmentation usually would not survive very long.  Perhaps his survival chances are augmented due to the increased turbidity of the Mara?