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Environment
Project feared to spell Lake Natron’s and flamingo’s doom
Posted: Sunday November 30, 2008 6:20 AM BT
Seventy five percent of the World's flamingoes are likely to perish if a proposed soda ash plant on lake Natron in northern Tanzania takes off. Scientists believe that the project would destroy the lake and the 1.5 to 2.5 million flamingoes dependent on it for survival. This fact has been confirmed by an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.
Lake Natron in East Africa is the only successful breeding site of the Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor)
Over 250 scientists who attended the 12th Pan African Ornithological Congress in South Africa recently have opposed the proposed soda ash plant on Lake Natron.

The scientists have written to the Tanzanian and Kenyan authorities seeking cancellation of the project and recognition of Lake Natron as a Ramsar site – a wetland of international significance – that requires government protection.

Plans by Tata Chemicals of India and Tanzania’s National Development Corporation to establish a soda ash plant with an annual production capacity of 0.5 million tones at the lake have met with stiff opposition from environmental conservationists.

Flamingo are endangered at Lake Natron.

The congress, which took place near Cape Town, noted that Lake Natron is the world’s most significant breeding site for the Lesser Flamingo, listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

It further noted that the lake is the only site in East Africa where this species breeds regularly and successfully and one of only five such sites in the world.

Congress Chairperson Prof. Adrian Craig has written to the Tanzanian government, urging it to maintain fully the ecological integrity of Lake Natron as a breeding site for the Lesser Flamingo, recognize the large scientific uncertainties surrounding potential impact of any major infrastructural development at or near the lake, and to adopt the Precautionary Principle, ruling out any developments that could pose a risk to the flamingoes.

According to the East African, the congress also wants the government to ensure a transparent and participatory process in preparation of the integrated management plan for the Lake Natron Ramsar site currently being developed, ensure that this plan underpins the conservation of the Lake Natron ecosystem in perpetuity, and the use of its resources in a manner that does not put biodiversity and people’s livelihoods at risk.

The congress further urged Tanzania and Kenya to initiate co-operation for the conservation and wise use of Lake Natron following the principle of cross-border co-operation.

Such co-operation is enshrined in several multilateral environmental agreements, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Africa-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement to which both states are party.

Apart from fears that the project could affect the breeding of 75 percent of the world's Lesser Flamingo due to increased disturbance from the presence of humans and vehicular traffic, it could also bring about changes in the volume and chemical composition of the water and increase the presence of predators.

Other concerns include the possible destruction of local pastoralist livelihoods as pastures are encroached on and water resources depleted.

Estimates show that, in 15 hours, the plant will use enough water to meet the needs of 40,000 cattle.
 
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