Electrifying tourism firms halted at Ikoma wildlife management area

A HUGE tourism business that currently generates over 3bn/-at Ikoma Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Serengeti District may be at risk if electricity poles will be installed in the area.

That is the fear of the WMA management and other key conservation stakeholders in Western Serengeti at the moment. WMA borders the worldfamous Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) and Ikorongo-Grumeti game reserves.

The WMA is seen as an integral part of the great Serengeti ecosystem. A recent plan by the country’s power utility, Tanzania National Electric Company (Tanesco), to connect several tourism investors operating in the WMA with electricity using utility poles has also prompted bitter reactions from conservation lovers.

They fear that utility poles will plunge the WMA into a hopeless tourist destination as well as putting lives of wildlife in danger. The WMA has eight investors operating tourism business, according to its Secretary Y usufu Manyanda.

“Our WMA receives visitors from France, the US, The Netherlands, India and other parts of the world and presently we are earning more than 3bn/- every year,” Manyanda said last week.

He said any plan to connect the tourism companies operating in the area electricity using poles is not acceptable. “First we will not allow that and the wildlife law prohibits any person from entering into the conservation area without permission,” Manyanda said.

WMA Chairperson Elias Chama blamed the investors for sidelining the WMA when they requested for the power. “The investors have requested electricity without involving us.

We have rejected the use of electricity poles. The exercise should stop. The law does not allow and visitors do not come to see poles,” he said. Masegeri Tumbuya of Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) at Serengeti office is also worried that putting utility poles in the WMA will affect tourism and disturb movement of the wild animals.

“Visitors are coming to see wildlife, the nature of Serengeti and the visibility of electric poles will reduce the value of tourism in the area,” Tumbuya, who works as the FZS Project Leader at Serengeti Ecosystem Management Office said in a separate interview.

He said the idea to connect the tourism companies with electricity is a good thing but it should be done in a manner that do not affect tourism or wildlife.

“We are supporting development but Ikona WMA is one of the important corridors of the Serengeti ecosystem,” Tumbuya said. “Tourism is beneficial for sustainable conservation and development “, he added.

Tumbuya recommends the use of underground method that will not involve the use of any electricity poles. The underground method, he said, was applied many years to connect villages located between Fort Ikoma and Mugumu with electricity.

“We are grateful to the government of Tanzania that it noted the importance of using underground method 20 years ago. Underground cables are safe and protect the ecology, “ Tumbuya pointed out.

It is imperative for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be done to determine the effects of the presence of utility poles in the WMA before installation of the poles, he noted.

The concern by the WMA officials and other key conservation stakeholders prompted an emergency meeting held at the Serengeti District Commissioner’s office on Friday last week to discuss the matter.

The meeting was attended by officials from Tanzania National Park (TANAPA), Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) Singita Grumeti Fund (SGF), Ikona, WMA, Serengeti District Council and Tanesco.

After deliberations the meeting decided to shelve Tanesco’s plan to supply power to the tourist companies through the overhead method.

“We have agreed that the exercise of taking electricity to the tourism camps located in the WMA using poles should stop because it may affect wildlife and tourism,“ Serengeti District Administrative Secretary Cosmas Q amara said after chairing the meeting .

During deliberations it was also highlighted that environmental impact assessment to determine the effects of the electricity poles in game conservation has not been done.

“They have all agreed that the presence of electricity poles will have huge adverse impact on tourism and EIA is required to see how best this can be done,“ Q amara pointed out. Commenting on the matter, Serengeti District Commissioner Nurdin Babu said the district advisory board in-charge for natural resources would soon meet to make final decisions

“We will be having our next board session to discuss the matter with all the stakeholders involved,” he said. Tanesco Manager in Serengeti District Magoti Mtani said the exercise has stopped pending further decisions.

Author: MUGINI JACOB in Serengeti

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