Overlooking the sprawling Savannah plains of Tanzania and Kenya, the snow-capped mountain of Kilimanjaro rises majestically in splendid isolation to 5,895 metres above the sea level, making it the world’s highest freestanding peak.
Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Constantine Kanyasu said recently that the Cable Car facility was part of the government’s latest strategy to woo tourists with over 50 years of age.
He 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, this 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 officer Beatrice Mchome had engaged tour operators and other mountain stakeholders in Kilimanjaro and Arusha region where she made presentations on the proposed cable car and a lodge projects as part of the ESIA process.
Key industry players, namely tour operators, guides and porters strongly protest 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) opposes the cable car product outright, saying it will deny employment nearly 250,000 unskilled porters scaling up Mount Kilimanjaro for a wage each year.
“Much as the cable car service doesn’t require porters, majority of tourists will climb Mount Kilimanjaro on day trip basis using the new product to cut down costs and length of stay,” MKPS vice chairman Edson Mpemba explained.
Mpemba wonders that decision makers had overlooked interests of the huge number of unskilled labour force, which solely depends on the mountain to eke out a living.
“Think of the ripple effect on families of the 250,000 unskilled porters,” he stresses, cautioning:
“The cable car facility will initially look like a noble and innovative idea, but it will, in a long run, ruin the future of the majority of local people whose livelihood depends on the mountain.”
Seasoned tour guide Victor Manyanga echoes his fears saying 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 cable car will be installed along the Machame route, which doubles as an irreplaceable birds migratory route…I am greatly worried over electric wires severely affecting the migration of birds,” Manyanga said.