Thursday, 12 July 2007

Flamingos’ home threatened by soda plant

The summer home of half a million flamingos in Tanzania is under threat from industrial development.

Lake Natron supports more than 500,000 Lesser Flamingos in summer, which amounts to 75 per cent of the world’s breeding population. The lake has been the birds’ only nesting site in East Africa for the last 45 years. Listed by the international Ramsar Wetland Convention and designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, it is one of only five breeding sites for lesser flamingos in the world.

The lake is threatened by the construction of a huge soda ash plant, which will require the installation of heavy machinery to pump water, as well as a new coal-run power station and housing for more than 1,000 workers. The plant will pump salty water from the lake for the production and export of sodium carbonate or washing soda and the developers may also introduce a hybrid shrimp to the lake to increase its salinity.

Dr Chris Magin, the RSPB’s International Officer for Africa, said: “The chances of Lesser Flamingos continuing to breed at Lake Natron in the face of such mayhem are next to zero. This development will leave these birds facing extinction in East Africa and should be stopped in its tracks and sunk in water so deep it can never be revived.”

Consultants for Lake Natron Resources Limited, are hosting a workshop to make public only part of its report on the environmental impact of the salt ash proposals. Conservationists in Africa and the UK are determined to influence the environmental report before it goes to the Tanzanian government but many have been barred from the workshop including the Lake Natron Consultative Group, which represents a number of environmental organisations.