A multi-million-dollar proposed cable car project on Mount Kilimanjaro is facing a ‘litmus test’, as the Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa, has joined the stakeholders to cast a doubt on feasibility of a controversial plan.
In March 2019 Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania (MNRT) announced plans to install a cable car on Africa’s highest Mountain, as a strategy to attract more visitors and boost tourism numbers.
Overlooking the sprawling savannah plains of Tanzania and Kenya, the snow-capped mountain Kilimanjaro rises majestically in splendid isolation to 5,895 meters above the sea level, making it the world’s highest freestanding peak.
The MNRT said that the cable car project’s primary purpose is to facilitate scale-up among elder and disabled tourists, who may not physically fit enough to trek the mountain.
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 typical six-day trekking trip.
However, reaction from the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) members has been swift, with the Prime Minister Majaliwa also explicitly expressing his reservations about the $72 million project over the conservation concerns and employments for local population.
Gracing the 2022 Kilimanjaro Marathon on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania’s tourist region, Mr. Majaliwa put it clear that the project campaigners have a daunting task to convince the government to give the contentious plan a green light.
“I’ve heard discussion about the cable cars to be installed on Mount Kilimanjaro, this majestic mountain has its own splendid glory to the adventurers who scale up to the peak on their feet” PM said, amid applause from the floor.
“We want the natural vegetation to remain intact. Once you start digging the mountain to erect pillars of cable cars, you will obviously destroy the natural vegetation on the mountain,” Prime Minister added.
Mr. Majaliwa further said that with cable cars in place, few tourists will prefer trekking and once that happens porters will be locked out of their rightful employments.
“As you discuss, be prepared to convince us in the government on where are you planning to take these porters. You must build up your case well to convince the government on the fate of the porters and on conserving the mountain’s pristine,” Mr. Majaliwa said.
“When you clear trees to pave way for the cable cars installation, the ice will melt; tell us exactly how would you do to retain the snow?” he queried.
“You have a daunting task of convincing the government on the project.”
Tour operators, mostly specialized in the lucrative mountain climbing safaris, protested the government’s decision to introduce the cable car trips on the mountain.
In their meeting held in Arusha recently, the tour operator’s opposed Tanzania government’s plan to introduce a cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro – an exercise they said would minimize tourism revenues accrued from the mountain climbers.
The Chairman of TATO, Wilbard Chambulo, said that introduction of the cable car on the mountain will affect the mountain’s fragile environment in addition to making it lose its status, on top of losing revenues for tour operators.
Nearly 56,000 tourists scale Mount Kilimanjaro and leave behind $50 million annually, but their numbers will most likely plunge and affect the revenue stream and livelihood of thousands local folks who solely depend on trekking industry to make their lives going.
A fortnight ago, the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr. Damas Ndumbaro, said that he plans to meet with tour operators in Kilimanjaro region on March 8, 2022 for comprehensive discussion and come up with the way forward.
International travel agents have also raised a red flag against a planned cable car project, threatening to drop off the Africa’s highest summit on their top destinations of choice list.
US-based travel agent, Wil Smith, who has successfully been selling the Mount Kilimanjaro for two decades now, has vowed not only to stop promoting the awe-inspiring world’s freestanding summit, but also to advise trekking enthusiasts to shun the destination.
Mr. Smith who is a director of the Deeper Africa outfitter says that a cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro will be an unnatural eyesore and a public nuisance.
Kilimanjaro’s core values that attract thousands of hikers annually are its wild, scenic setting and the challenge of trekking to the summit, he writes to the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr. Damas Ndumbaro, adding:
“The construction of a high-capacity tourist conveyance will urbanize the mountain and disfigure the landscape. Kilimanjaro will lose its reputation as a grand and beautiful wonder, becoming instead a cheap and easy distraction of no great consequence”.