Tanzania has abandoned plans to take the proposed Uganda oil pipeline through Lake Victoria and the Serengeti National Park, as it scrambles to keep Kenya out of the deal.
Activists threatened to stop the pipeline at the East African Court of Justice if the country insisted on the shorter and cheaper Serengeti route.
Tanzania’s Minister for Energy and Minerals Prof Sospeter Muhongo accused Kenya of sponsoring the activists from Serengeti Watch to derail the pipeline.
“The pipeline will avoid passing through areas with high population, hills and conservation precincts, including game and forest reserves as well as National Parks,” he told Tanzania’s Daily News in Arusha.
Serengeti Watch relied on proposed designs from the Tanzanian government.
The shortest route of 1,200km would take the pipeline through shallow Lake Victoria and Serengeti and could disrupt the annual wildebeest migration.
“The length of such a pipeline is the single biggest factor in its construction cost and subsequent transport cost of oil,” Serengeti Watch director Dave Blanton says.
Yesterday, he issued a statement praising the Tanzanian government for the decision.
“It is encouraging to know the new Tanzanian government respects its country’s priceless natural heritage and understands the role this plays in sustainable development,” he said.
The Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation confirmed the pipeline would now follow a longer, 1,410-kilometre route, which will cost $4 billion (Sh400 billion).
The TPDC said the pipeline route will start from Lake Albert basin, where an oil extraction and refinery plant is to be built, pass through North West Tanzania to Kagera and Singida regions to Tanga port, avoiding Lake Victoria and Serengeti parks.