Tanzania has announced a controversial plan to install cable cars on Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro. Although still in the process of completing a feasibility study, the government is believed to be in talks with two companies – one from China and another from the West – who are interested in making the plan come to life.
Tourism is the largest earner of hard currency in the country and the government’s aim is to increase the number of visitors to the upper slopes of Kilimanjaro by 50%. Currently, 50,000 visitors spend around a week on the mountain each year in an attempt to trek to Uhuru Peak (5895m). Ministers believe a cable car system will enable thousands of tourists that are physically unable to undertake the arduous climb to experience the summit of Africa. They also point out that similar systems have been successfully integrated into other mountainous environments within protected areas, such as in Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town.
Environmentalists, however, are greatly concerned about the impact of both the cable car system’s infrastructure and the increased number of tourists on the mountain’s fragile ecosystem. The Tanzania Porters Association is also standing steadfastly against the proposal as they believe it will reduce incomes in the region and result in massive job losses due to fewer people taking the time to climb the mountain in a traditional manner (up to 15 locals are presently employed for each climber on Kilimanjaro). Climbers are also against the plan as they believe it will be a blight on one of the world’s most beautiful mountains. One of them, Mark Gale who climbed the mountain last month at the age of 53, has started an official petition on chage.org to present to Tanzania’s ministers for natural resources and tourism.
Where the proposed cable car will make its way up the mountain is uncertain, but many believe it will be along the current Machame trekking route, which is known for its astounding vistas.