Tanzania: decision on soda ash project imminent

The National Development Corporation (NDC) will, subject to the completion of the ongoing Environmental Impact Assessment, decide on the fate of the controversial Lake Natron Soda Ash project in the n…

The National Development Corporation (NDC) will, subject to the completion of the ongoing Environmental Impact Assessment, decide on the fate of the controversial Lake Natron Soda Ash project in the next one or two months. According to NDC managing director Gideon Nassari: The (environmental impact) assessment is well in progress and hopefully it will be ready in the next one and a half months. He said the experts“ assessment of the impact of the multibillion project on the environment will give the basis on which to decide the project“s way forward. In the second part of 2010, NDC commissioned the Institute of Resource Assessment (IRA) of the University of Dar es Salaam to undertake the assessment. India“s Tata Company, which sought to invest in the project, abandoned its plan to build a plant on the shores of Lake Natron due to pressure by local and international environmentalists. The firm had planned to invest USD 400 million to extract 500,000 tonnes of soda ash per year from the lake. Upon completion, the project was expected to generate huge economic benefits to the residents surrounding the lake, generating USD 300 million per year, double the USD 150,000 generated by tourism. The National Environmental Management Council (NEMC), Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, Bird Life International and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds campaigned vigorously against the project, which they described as highly dangerous to the eco-system of the region. The bird societies claimed that human activity on Lake Natron, which has been a critical breeding ground for flamingos for the past 45 years, would disturb the birds, which account for half a million or 75% of the world lesser flamingos.