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Serengeti National Park

United Republic of Tanzania
Factors affecting the property in 2001*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Illegal activities
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water infrastructure
  • Other Threats:

    Threats to wildlife migration and populations

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Poaching
  • Rapidly growing human population
  • Poorly designed ad-hoc tourism development projects
  • Need to strengthen the coordination with the trans-border Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya 
  • Road project
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2001
Requests approved: 4 (from 1989-1999)
Total amount approved : 59,500 USD
Missions to the property until 2001**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2001

The Centre and IUCN have received several reports concerning the proposed Ewaso Ng’iro Hydroelectric Project (ENP) in Kenya, and its potential impacts on the Serengeti and Mara ecosystems.  The State-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company is proposing to build three dams along the Ewaso Ng’iro River that would generate 180 MW of electricity and is expected to cost 350 million dollars by the time of completion in 2007.  This scheme, if implemented, would link the Mara River system through a 3.5 km tunnel with the upper drainage of the Ewaso Ng’iro (south) River, thus reversing the Mara’s flow into the Ewaso Ng’iro River, finally draining into Lake Natron in the east instead of Lake Victoria in the west.

There have been a series of Environmental Impact Assessments and discussions on the ENP which have held its implementation up.  Potential impacts, if implemented, include downstream effects on Lake Natron in Tanzania (possible extension to the proposed  Rift Valley Lake Reserves World Heritage site) and potential ecological impact on the Serengeti National Park.  IUCN has received a report by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which notes potential impacts of the project, if implemented, on the conservation of the Serengeti National Park:

·  The main feature of the Serengeti Ecosystem, which extends across several protected areas, including the World Heritage site, is the wildebeest migration.  Wildlife numbers in this system are controlled by the dry season rainfall (and consequent grass availability) in the Mara River system.  Presently the Serengeti Migration consists of approximately 1.2 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras.  This was an important feature of the inscription of this site.

·  If the Mara River were to dry up, most of the wildlife migrants would perish and the Serengeti Migration would collapse irreversibly.  There is concern that though the ENP makes allowances for maintaining some water flow in the Mara River, even during severe droughts, these drought times would also produce the worst power shortages in Kenya.  Consequently, there would be unpredictable pressure on the demand for channelling all available Mara water into the Ewaso Ng’iro Hydroelectric project.

·  Even under normal climatic conditions the project might endanger the Serengeti World Heritage Site and impact tourist revenues in Tanzania and Kenya.  In June 2001, Tanzania National Parks, together with the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Australian Institute for Marine Science developed an ecological model to test the possible impact of the Amala weir water diversion project on the Serengeti Migration (Gereta, E., Wolanski, E., and Borner, M., 2001. Modeling the Impact on the Serengeti Ecosystem of the Proposed Amala Weir Water Diversion Project in Kenya). 


The model used several extraction rates to show the impacts on the wildebeest population.  It showed the effect of the Amala weir water extraction scheme will only be negligible when rainfall is average or above. The effect is predicted to become significant once a drought occurs (i.e. a year where the annual rainfall is 30% below the long-term mean). In such a one-off situation, without considering the possibility of a higher water diversion by the Kenyan authorities, the Amala weir diversion scheme is predicted to result in the deaths of at least 20% of the wildebeest, over and above the normal die-off of 10-20% during such a drought.  For more severe water extraction rates the model predicts a death rate of 50%.  The recovery rate in such a situation will be between 15 and 20 years. Since a drought on the average occurs every ten years, the wildebeest would never recover. In the case of repeated droughts the wildebeest population would drop to below 200,000, from which it cannot recover, as predator control would take over.


It is understood that the East Africa Community has discussed this issue and the proposal has effectively been dropped for the time being.  IUCN considers the Committee should note this proposal and keep the situation under review. IUCN understands that the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem has undergone considerable change in recent years. These include:

·  major settlement and extensive development of intensive, large-scale agriculture along much of the Kenyan side of the Mara River in recent years, with the off-take for irrigation and drinking water growing exponentially

·  the River is now exploited virtually throughout its course except for the small section in the Serengeti

·  within the Masai Mara National Reserve and the adjacent wildlife areas, the growth of tourism facilities has been tremendous, which has impacted on both off-take and the input of waste

·  forest area has declined and so has the water holding capacity of the soil. Thus, the rains are producing progressively higher floods with the effect of eroding the river banks.  Conversely in the dry season there is less water remaining in the soil and so there is progressively lower flow. The results are that the Mara is getting lower and lower over time in the dry season.


IUCN has been notified that WWF East Africa Regional Office is commencing design of a Mara River Catchment Basin Initiative.  This will focus on conserving the Mara River Catchment’s unique biodiversity; ensuring the maintenance of natural functions by balancing the supply and demand of biodiversity products, and developing alternative livelihoods for communities.  As part of the Initiative’s preliminary phase, WWF has recently commissioned a report on the hydrology of the Kenyan side of the Mara River, in order to consider the land use changes and impacts of these on the flow and quality of the River.  IUCN notes that the Serengeti National Park is one of the field sites for the Enhancing our Heritage Project funded by the UNF.


IUCN notes that the East Africa Community has identified the Serengeti/Mara ecosystem as a priority transboundary ecosystem that should be managed jointly.  Further, that the Maasai Mara Reserve was proposed to be included in the Serengeti World Heritage site in 1997, but was rejected by Tanzanian National Parks, the authority in charge of the Serengeti site, because of their concerns over the lack of an effective protection or management regime.


IUCN considers there is merit in the State Parties of Kenya and Tanzania establishing a joint committee through the Commission on East Africa Cooperation arrangement to undertake further in-depth studies on the entire catchments of the Ewaso Ng’iro, Lake Natron, Mara River systems.


IUCN notes that the Serengeti is not only a World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve, it is also the main tourist attraction in Tanzania, a country where tourism revenue is the largest foreign exchange earner.  It also notes that the very reason that the Serengeti is a World Heritage site  - the wildebeest migration, could be potentially threatened by any future implementation of the ENP.  IUCN recognises that any negative impact on the dry season range of the wildebeest has potentially major ramifications for the very criteria for which the Serengeti listing is based.  IUCN also notes that the Mara River is habitat for riverine forest containing many rare forest birds and other fauna, and upon which large populations of crocodiles and hippopotamus depend.  It is clear that there is a high element of risk in the diversion of water from the Mara.  The Mara diversion cannot be considered in isolation, it must be considered in the context of other ecological problems such as rapidly changing land use and deforestation in the catchments, as well as the impacts of climate change. Most serious ecological/environmental problems arise because of a complex combination of factors.  In such cases, IUCN believes that the precautionary principle must be applied to avoid any actions that increase the risk of the Mara drying up.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2001
Reports on SOC of natural properties inscribed noted by the Committee


Reports on the state of conservation of natural properties inscribed on the World Heritage List noted by the Committee

Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

Fraser Island (Australia)

The Sundarbans (Bangladesh)

Belovezhskaya Pushcha/Bialowieza Forest (Belarus/Poland)

Gros Morne National Park (Canada)

Nahanni National Park (Canada)

Los Katios National Park (Colombia) 

Caves of the Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst (Hungary/Slovakia)

The Committee noted that the issues raised concern only the Slovak part of this transboundary site.

Sundarbans National Park (India) 

The Delegate of India informed the Committee that there is no National Waterways Project that is planned or likely to impact this site.

Kaziranga National Park (India)

Komodo National Park (Indonesia)

Lorentz National Park (Indonesia)

The Observer of Indonesia thanked the Australian authorities for their financial assistance. He informed the Committee that it would be difficult to comply with the deadline of 1 February and that a report could be provided by the end of March 2002.

Aeolian Islands (Italy)

The Observer of Italy confirmed that there was a court decision on 4 December 2001, which is not yet public, but that it is hoped to be available soon. She informed the Committee that the collaboration between the autonomous regional Government and the central Government has commenced and that a meeting will take place to find a solution. 

Banc d'Arguin National Park (Mauritania)

The Delegate of Egypt brought to the attention of the Committee the importance of protecting the wetlands, which are known to be important rest places for the migratory birds along their routes. He suggested that the World Heritage Centre should have a plan defining the wetlands, which are important for the birds and to use this information for establishing "satellite" World Heritage sites. IUCN informed of the co-operation between the World Heritage Centre and the Ramsar Convention as well as with Bird Life International for the protection of the wetlands. He also highlighted the importance of the surrounding areas to the World Heritage sites and the links with the Man and Biosphere programme for the protection of the sites. The Secretariat informed of the on-going discussions with the Secretariat of the Convention of Migratory Species to establish a Memorandum of Understanding between these two Conventions.

Gunung Mulu National Park (Malaysia)

Sian Ka'an (Mexico)

The Delegate of Mexico informed that the confirmation of the Ecological Land-Use Plan is in its final phase and consequently she asked that the deadline for the report requested by the Bureau be set for 15 May 2002 for examination at the twenty-sixth session of the Committee in June.

Royal Chitwan National Park (Nepal)

Western Caucasus (Russian Federation)

Golden Mountains of Altai (Russian Federation)

Doñana National Park (Spain)

Sinharaja Forest Reserve (Sri Lanka)

Ha Long Bay (Vietnam)

Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast (United Kingdom)

St Kilda (United Kingdom)

Serengeti National Park (United Republic of Tanzania)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (United States of America)

Canaima National Park (Venezuela)


The Bureau may wish to adopt the following:

“The Bureau notes the ENP project has been discussed by the East African Community and has been abandoned for the time being.  The Bureau notes the potential impacts of any implementation of the ENP scheme on the Serengeti World Heritage site and requests that it be kept informed of developments by the State Parties of Tanzania and Kenya.” 

Report year: 2001
United Republic of Tanzania
Date of Inscription: 1981
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 25COM (2001)

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.