Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Picture: REUTERS/KATRINA MANSON
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Picture: REUTERS/KATRINA MANSON

Nairobi — Tanzania’s environment and tourism ministers are at loggerheads over a plan to put a cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The scheme was announced in April by tourism minister Hamisi Kigwangalla as a way of boosting visitor numbers to Africa’s tallest mountain.

Feasibility studies are under way for the project driven by the tourism ministry. A Chinese and a Western company have reportedly expressed interest.

Environment minister January Makamba, however, said his department would be responsible for issuing a permit for the cable car after examining its potential risks. “We will conduct studies to determine what the environmental risks are and what measures can be taken to mitigate them,” he said.

This prompted a string of rebukes from Kigwangalla, who questioned Makamba’s motivations and priorities as a minister.

“Do you think we can set up a project without taking into account laws for the protection of the environment?” he fired back at his colleague, also from the governing party.

“What environmental damage will a cable car cause? More than 350,000ha of forest disappears each year in this country. Which is more serious?”

Makamba said he was simply reciting the law and it would “be immature on my part to publicly respond to, argue with, or bash or attack my esteemed colleague”.

About 50,000 people climb the nearly 6,000m mountain every year. The tourism ministry hopes a cable car would attract those unable to climb the fabled peak and boost visitor numbers by 50%. Tourism is a major revenue earner for Tanzania, home not just to the storied mountain but to Serengeti National Park, among other natural wonders.

The cable car project has been fiercely opposed by porters associations, who fear it will destroy their livelihoods by providing another path to the “roof of Africa”.