The world of adventure travel, trekking, and climbing has been set abuzz this week with the news of a potential cable car to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. According to various news outlets, the Tanzanian government is in talks with both a Chinese and western construction company to discuss the possibilities of building a tram that could whisk visitors to the top of the mountain. The idea behind such a proposal is to increase tourism to the country, with some estimates saying that the tram would raise the number of visitors by more than 50%.
Currently, about 50,000 people climb Kilimanjaro each year. The trek to the summit is a non-technical one, but due to its 5895 meter (19,341 ft) height, the altitude presents a considerable challenge. Still, a Kili climb is a major bucket-list item for many adventurers, who take great pride in reaching the summit under their own power. A tram would allow many to reach the top in a matter of a few hours, potentially increasing the amount of traffic at the top and possibly lowering the number of trekkers who take the old fashioned route to the summit.
That is of major concern to the more than 20,000 porters who work on the mountain, as well as the dozens of guide services that offer Kilimanjaro climbs. If the number of climbers coming to the mountain decreases due to a cable car, many of those who are currently working on the mountain could lose their jobs. Other say adding a tram would spoil the views of the natural environment of Kili as well, which has already seen its glaciers retreat at an astounding rate.
Others are quick to point out that mountain trams are common in many other parts of the world and that they can integrate nicely with the environment. Trams are common in Europe and even some parts of the Himalaya for instance, and have been for some time. If done properly, they say, a pressurized tram could be a major boon to the tourism sector of Tanzania, which has seen good growth in recent years as more foreign visitors come to the country.
At the moment, this project is just in the “feasibility study” phase. That means we’re a long way from seeing construction on a tram even beginning. That said, if the Tanzania government moves ahead with these plans, we could see such a machine put in place sometime in the next decade. For now, it’s just an idea, but if there is money to be made from such an idea, don’t be too surprised if someone doesn’t press ahead with the project.
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