MONDAY March 7, 2022
By Adam Ihucha
A proposed multi-million-dollar cable car plan on Mount Kilimanjaro is facing a litmus test following Tanzania Prime Minister Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa doubting the feasibility of the controversial project.
In March 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism unveiled the plan to install cable cars on the Africa’s highest Mountain to attract more visitors and boost tourism numbers.
Overlooking the sprawling Savannah plains of Tanzania and Kenya, the snow-capped mountain rises majestically in a splendid isolation to 5,895 metres above the sea level, making it the world’s highest freestanding peak.
The ministry said the cable cars plan primarily targeted to facilitate the elderly and physically challenged tourists to also scale the mountain.
Instead of the familiar view of snow and ice, this cable car would offer a day trip safari with a bird’s eye view, contrary to the typical six-day trekking trip.
However, reactions from the flamboyant Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) members have been swift, but latest being the Prime Minister, Mr Majaliwa. He explicitly expressed his reservations on the $72-million project, citing conservation and local people’s employment concerns.
Mr Majaliwa said while gracing the 2022 Kilimanjaro Marathon episode on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania’s tourist region that proponents of the project had a daunting task to convince the government to give green light to the ‘contentious’ plan.
“I’ve heard discussions about cable cars being installed on Mount Kilimanjaro, this majestic mountain has its own splendid glory to adventurers who ascend on foot to the peak,” said the PM amid applause from the floor, adding:
“We want the natural vegetation to remain intact. Once you start digging the mountain to erect cable car pillars, you will obviously destroy the natural vegetation on the mountain.”
With cable cars in place, few tourists would prefer to trek to the expense of the majority of porters who would be locked out of their rightful employment.
“As you discuss, be prepared to convince us in the government on where you are planning to take the porters. You must build your case well to persuade us on the fate of the porters and on conservation of the mountain’s pristine.
“When you clear trees to pave way for the cable cars installation, the ice will melt; tell us exactly how you will restore the snow,” he stressed.
TATO has pleaded with the Tanzania government to revisit the proposed cable cars plan on Mount Kilimanjaro, lest the Africa’s summit loses its impressive glory.
Plans are underway to endorse AVAN Kilimanjaro Ltd — a consortium comprising six foreign shareholders — to put up and run cable cars on the mountain popularly referred to as the roof of Africa.
The Association of the Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA) has also implored Tanzania to leave Mount Kilimanjaro intact for adventurers to experience their life-changing dream.
“We have been greatly concerned over the cable car project. We know Africa. We know Tanzania. We know the North American tourism industry.
“We strongly urge Tanzania to leave Mount Kilimanjaro in its fabulous beauty,” APTA wrote to the Tanzania Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Dr Damas Ndumbaro.
There is no sense of accomplishment or adventure in taking a cable car to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, adds APTA, warning that the cable car plan would commercialise and cheapen the Africa’s most iconic treasure.
“It will ruin the mystique and beauty of Africa’s tallest mountain. The US and Canadian tour operators and travel agents are horrified at the thought of this commercialisation,” the APTA letter, whose copy The Tranquility Newshas seen, reads in part.
The association reminds framers of the plan on implications of potentially serious altitude sickness for people opting for cable cars, as there was no opportunity for them to acclimatise.
With nearly 56,000 tourists scaling up Mount Kilimanjaro and leaving behind $50 million annually, the cable cars plan will most likely deny local folks, who solely depend on the trekking industry, of their livelihood, let alone affecting the revenue stream.
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Damas Ndumbaro, promised a fortnight ago to meet tour operators in Kilimanjaro Region on Tuesday for comprehensive deliberations and the way forward.
Tour operators, mostly specialised in the lucrative mountain climbing safaris, met in Arusha recently to protest the cable car plan, arguing that it would minimise revenue accrued from climbers.
Installing cable cars would ruin the fragile environment, the mountain would lose its status and the tour operators would lose revenues, the TATO Chairman, Mr Wilbard Chambulo, cautionedΩ
IN BRIEF: APTA
The Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa is the brain child of the 1980 African Travel Association meeting in Los Angeles. APTA announced its intention to exclude South Africa from its organisation due to its political policies, prompting South African Tourist Office representative Louw Wolhuter and some participants to walk out. The APTA Executive Board vows to protest the cable cars project on Mount Kilimanjaro in its letter to the Tanzania Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, saying it would have a net negative impact on the quantity and quality of tourism to Tanzania.“As a tour operator and mountaineer, I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro four times with mostly American tourists and I’m aghast at the notion of putting up cable cars,” Ms Lisa Greyhill, one of the board members, is quoted as saying. She adds that the plan will lead other businesses to mushroom at the top of the cable cars route to ensure more tourist dollars are spent while on Kilimanjaro, adding more trash, trampling of the ecosystem and driving away of any wildlifeΩ