Highway threatens wildlife in the Serengeti: economic development or conservation of the environment?

by Fred Munro on September 13, 2016 - 2:08am

The Serengeti is a huge grassland that covers 15 000 square kilometers and is home to a huge diversity of species. Its name, derived from the Maasai language, translates into “endless” or “extended”. The Serengeti’s most famous feature is the wildebeest migration that is known to be the largest land mammal migration on Earth. The vast majority of this migration happens in the African country Tanzania. In order to ensure its economic well-being and improvement, the government of Tanzania was willing to approve the building of a highway that would cross through the Serengeti National Park. This highway would create an easy method to transport valuable minerals such as coltan (used in cell phones) and oils from the Atlantic Ocean shores to the Indian Ocean shores all the while inspiring communities near it to develop at an increased rate. This would also cost Africa very little as China is willing to fund most of the project demanding a percentage of the oils and minerals in return. The government of Tanzania is tied up between the decisions of building it or not as it would be a high risk. The Serengeti attracts many tourists every year and amounts to around $1.8 billion per year and generates around 1 million jobs directly and indirectly. The ecosystem can be very severely altered in negative ways if this highway is built. Most of the country’s predators, such as large cats and crocodiles, rely heavily on the migrating animals in order to survive through certain seasons. The migrating mammals also help feed the grasses with their excrements. Building this highway would starve many predators and reduce the amount of grass available for grazing animals resulting in a very severe change in the Serengeti’s ecosystem. Though the building of this highway may greatly enhance the country’s wealth by changing its main source of income from tourism to more industrial revenue which could increase the rate at which this country develops. For the people that are favoring the building of the highway, they face the moral principles of following what nature intends and the end does not justify the means. They are conflicted with the need of the highway for economic development and the way they may sabotage the environment in order to obtain it. On the other hand, the people acting against the building of this highway are conflicted with the moral principle that people should always do what’s best for them as the highway would benefit them in the long run. This dilemma creates a value conflict between wealth and harmony with the environment.

            In my opinion, the government of Tanzania should in no way build this highway. They have a healthy alternative that would require a short detour around the southern border of the wildebeest’s territory but would result in 4 times as many towns and villages being touched by this highway which would benefit their economy without destroying ecosystems. I believe letting the government of Tanzania build this destructive highway through important lands would open the doors to more environment destroying projects which could draw us even further from our connections with nature. I don't believe we should sacrifice harmony with our environment for wealth given the environment is crucial to our planet's survival. The ends to be rich does not justify the means that include the destruction of nature. Do you believe we humans should prioritize economic development over the conservation of the environment?

 

Works Cited

Norton, Boyd. "Fighting the Paving of Paradise" Earth Island Journal 27.2 (2012): 16-17. Academic Search Elite. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.

Comments

I was really interested in the choice of your topic as I was one of the tourists, few years ago, that went in the Serengeti to see the wildebeest migration. As I went there and saw it myself, I do not have an objective view on the subject. I agree with you that the government of Tanzania should not approve the highway project. I think it would be an ecological disaster, as it would disturb many animals’ lives. Sure, it will improve the economic development of the country, but at what cost? If there is a way to build the highway without damaging the wildlife’s habitat, why not doing it that way?

Thank you for your comment L-M-B! I most definitely agree with you that they should adopt the alternative and make the highway go around the Serengeti as it would have better effects on the African economy as a whole and less disastrous effects on the environment. I find it very interesting that you experienced the wildebeest migration live. I can only dream of seeing it with my own eyes!

Your post was very captivating and interesting as a topic. You did a great job demonstrating the positive and negative effects that would be brought to Tanzania and the massive wildebeest migration if the Serengeti would be torn apart and made into a highway. I agree with your position, I believe that the Tanzanian government should preserve the wild life and protect their species. Humans should not prioritize the economic development of the country over the conservation of the environment. By taking away this huge landmass many species would have their lives in danger and the country would loss a large ecosystem that they have adopted over hundreds years. If the highway was build it would cause great damage to the environment and in no way benefit the country’s wildlife. Do you think the destruction of nature is better for a country’s development?

Thank you for your comment Alana! To answer your question, although I strongly believe the Tanzanian government should avoid building a highway through the Serengeti as it would have colossal effects on the ecosystem. I do believe that the destruction of nature may enhance a country's development in the short run. The extraction of oils and other valuable resources are a great source of revenue but those resources are also limited. Countries would be better off finding a healthy alternative that wouldn't destroy their environment as this would be more suitable for the long run. The costs would be greater at first, but the revenue they would get after a certain number of years would exceed the one they would have gotten exploiting limited resources. Take solar panels for example; they are very expensive to install but, once installed, they are very cheap to maintain and take away the cost you would've needed to pay in order to have electricity.

Thank you for your comment Alana! To answer your question, although I strongly believe the Tanzanian government should avoid building a highway through the Serengeti as it would have colossal effects on the ecosystem. I do believe that the destruction of nature may enhance a country's development in the short run. The extraction of oils and other valuable resources are a great source of revenue but those resources are also limited. Countries would be better off finding a healthy alternative that wouldn't destroy their environment as this would be more suitable for the long run. The costs would be greater at first, but the revenue they would get after a certain number of years would exceed the one they would have gotten exploiting limited resources. Take solar panels for example; they are very expensive to install but, once installed, they are very cheap to maintain and take away the cost you would've needed to pay in order to have electricity.

Great job! You explained both sides of the debate very clearly and thoroughly. You have a very nice writing style. I agree with your opinion because we should always prioritize nature over profit. We won't have anywhere to live if we destroy the environment and we won't have any use for the money we made while destroying it. Some of my values are the environment, cooperation and fairness. We would be unfair to the wildlife if we disrupted their habitat with a highway. Villages around Tanzania should cooperate to find a way to build the highway around the Serengeti National Park. The moral claim to respect, in this case, would be “Always act for the greater good” because although Tanzania would not be making a profit from the highway if the project does comes to fruition, it would be protecting its precious wildlife, the environment and ultimately our planet. If this project, which is very destructive to nature, is permitted by the government, where would the line be drawn for other destructive projects?

Thank you for your comment Charlotte! You sure bring up very good points, prioritizing nature over profit should be a value to everyone. Just like you stated, there would be no way to make profit if there is no habitable land due to exploitation of limited resources. I can connect with all of your values as the environment takes up a huge place for me and so does fairness for every individual. The doors to environmental destruction for economic reasons should definitely stay closed. I strongly believe that if this project ends up being permitted, the doors will be open and many other environmentally destructive projects for economic reasons may be put into place resulting in irreversible damage to planet Earth.