Overlooking the sprawling Savannah plains of Tanzania and Kenya, the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro rises majestically in splendid isolation to 5,895 metres above the sea level, making it the world’s highest freestanding peak.
Tanzania Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Constantine Kanyasu stated the Cable Car facility was part of the government’s latest strategy to woo tourists with over 50 years of age.
Mr. Kanyasu said that they hope that the cable car will allow more ageing tourists to experience the wide variety of nature and wildlife of Mount Kilimanjaro. Instead of the familiar views of snow and ice, he said the cable car would offer a day trip safari with a bird’s eye view, contrary to the eight-day hiking trip.
The initial work for the cable car has just taken off with AVAN Kilimanjaro hiring the Crescent Environment and Management (CEM) Consult Limited to conduct Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).
CEM engaged tour operators and other mountain stakeholders in Kilimanjaro and Arusha region where the company has made presentations on the proposed cable car and a lodge projects as part of the ESIA process.
However, key industry players, namely tour operators, guides and porters strongly protested the new facility, saying climbing the magnificent Kilimanjaro Mountain on foot is a lifetime experience that should never be compromised by cable cars.
Mount Kilimanjaro Porters Society (MKPS) opposed the cable car product outright, saying it will deny employment to nearly 250,000 unskilled porters scaling up Mount Kilimanjaro for a wage each year.
The MKPS showed disappointment in decision makers who had overlooked interests of the huge number of unskilled labour force, which solely depends on the mountain to eke out a living, citing the ripple effect on families of the 250,000 unskilled porters.
They also argued that the glittering cable car product will contradict the country’s conservation policy, as it will encourage mass tourism and become a major threat to the ecology of Mount Kilimanjaro. The car is planned to be installed along the Machame route, which doubles as an irreplaceable birds` migratory route, creating worry over electric wires severely affecting the migration of birds.
They further accused authorities of deliberately violating the law of the land by allowing a foreign investor to operate a cable car service on Mount Kilimanjaro. The law provides for exclusivity of Mount Kilimanjaro services to local operators with Section 58(2) of the 2008 Tanzania Tourism Act No 11 clearly stating mountain climbing or trekking registration should be issued to companies fully owned by Tanzanians.
Tour operators are also worried over the cable car harshly affecting revenues in a long run, owing to the service significantly reducing the length of stay from eight to one day. They fear the multiplier effect of the decline to the entrance, camping, rescue and crew fees will also be reflected on the national economy.
Also read: Tanzania: Independence and Tourism