Tanzania: no harm to flamingos from soda ash plan says firm

A Tanzanian state firm has rejected environmentalists“concerns that rare flamingoes would be threatened by the soda ash plant it plans to build with an Indian company at Lake Natron in northern Tanza…

A Tanzanian state firm has rejected environmentalists“concerns that rare flamingoes would be threatened by the soda ash plant it plans to build with an Indian company at Lake Natron in northern Tanzania. Conservationists say the plant will directly threaten the fragile ecosystem of the lake, where three-quarters of the world“s lesser flamingos go to breed. Gideon Nasari, managing director of Tanzania“s state-run National Development Corporation (NDC), said plans to move the plant 35km (22 miles) from the lakeshore would help preserve the pink birds, which are a major tourist attraction. “By locating the factory away from the lake, we are going to make sure that we can co-exist with the flamingos”, Mr. Nasari said in a telephone interview from Dar es Salaam. “We are really working very hard to prove scientifically that in fact there is a self-renewing ability in that lake”. Conservationists fear the extraction will upset the delicate mineral balance in Lake Natron, killing the algae which the flamingos feed on and which gives them their pink color. Addressing reporters in Nairobi on 5 May 2008, an umbrella group of 32 environmental organisations said they were “greatly disturbed” to learn NDC and its Indian partner, Tata Chemicals Ltd, planned to proceed with work at the new site. It says the lesser flamingo could become extinct in five years if its habitat is destroyed. Paul Matiku of Nature Kenya said the death of the rare birds would put income from regional tourism at risk. “If the flamingos are going to be threatened … then what are the benefits of this project?” he said. Pollution in neighbouring Kenya has been blamed in recent years for the deaths of hundreds of flamingos, which belong to the “lesser” species, 80% of which live in Africa. The umbrella Lake Natron Consultative Group said it was increasing its efforts to halt the project through campaigning and by commissioning more studies into the costs and benefits of the proposed facility. Mr. Nasari said NDC would begin that process in May 2008. The company has a 40% shareholding in the project, while Tata owns the rest. They hope to create 100 jobs. Nasari said the economics of the venture were clear, with NDC putting the cost of producing soda ash in Tanzania at USD 180 per tonne compared to buying it from Kenya at USD 300 per tonne.