Fresh concerns as President orders Lake Natron soda ash mining fast tracked

By Venancia.Ndoo, Fri, 15/04/2011 - 07:53
Fresh concerns have been raised following a directive by the President of Tanzania to fast track the construction of the proposed soda ash factory at Lake Natron in Tanzania. Tanzanian press quoted the President who was speaking at the Ministry of Industry and Trade officials in Dar es Salaam last week. He said that the country would not continue reeling in poverty “while our minerals are lying untapped” adding “with harvesting at Lake Natron, we will not be the first to do so, because our neighbours, Kenya, are doing the same on the other side of the lake,” He said there was no need for further delay since “experience has it that excavation can continue without any disruptions to the ecosystem.” Lake Natron is the only regular breeding site for Lesser Flamingos in Eastern Africa. The 1.5-2.5 million Lesser Flamingos – which represents three quarters of the world population - breed only at Lake Natron. Food is plentiful, nesting sites abound – and above all, the lake is isolated and undisturbed. The Lake is an Important Bird Area and also a Ramsar Site. “Building a soda ash factory at Lake Natron is not good for the Tanzanian economy” said Lota Melamari, the CEO of Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, “Tanzania heavily depends on tourism and Lake Natron and other Rift Valley lakes are a huge tourist attraction. But Lake Natron is special as it is the only breeding site for flamingos in this part of Africa.  We can’t afford to destroy that”, he concluded. In 2006 an Indian company, Tata Chemical Industries Ltd, in collaboration with the Tanzanian Government put forward a proposal to construct a $450 million factory that would produce 500,000 tonnes of soda ash per year and employ 150 permanent staff. However, there was a huge outcry from conservation groups – BirdLife International, the Lake Natron Consultative Group, RSPB, among others - that opposed the move, saying, it would disrupt the breeding of Lesser Flamingos that are listed as “Near Threatened.” Intensive campaigning led to a shelving of the initial project and withdrawal by Tata Chemical Industries in May 2008. Reacting to the new development, Sarah Sanders, from RSPB's International Division, said “The new directive is very worrying. The concerns raised over the project in 2008 still stand. Moreover, constructing the soda ash plant away from the shores of Lake Natron will not address the threat to Lesser Flamingo breeding.” She explained that the raw material will still be mined from the Lake, which provides the substrate for making Flamingo nests. Noise from the heavy equipment, the presence of people and a network of pipes will chase away the birds which are highly sensitive to disturbance while breeding”. She also added that the waste water would prevent the development of a thick crust that can support the weight of the birds while breeding. Tanzania should learn lessons from the Kenyan experience. “Soda ash mining has been going on at Lake Magadi for over 100 years and Flamingos have not attempted to breed there over the last 50 years” said Mr Paul Matiku, the Executive Director of Nature Kenya. “Soda ash mining at Lake Magadi has left local communities disillusioned with little to show for the 100 years of mining. The environment has been damaged and fresh water nearly depleted”. He said that in 2003, scores of local Maasai were injured by Police as they protested against a controversial land lease renewal in favour of Magadi Soda Company. It is not yet clear whether a new project proposal nor a new Environmental and Social Impact Assessment has been submitted according to Tanzanian law. Neither is it clear who the new investor or funder is. What is clear is that the new directive is likely to spur a new uproar from conservation organizations and the local community at Lake Natron, which is vehemently opposed to soda ash mining.

President Kikwete (Google Images)


We are a swan rescue (Swan Rescue South Wales)here in the UK and we encounter the same problem with swans flying into overhead power lines. The diverters most commonly used here by electricity companies are the Clydesdale ones but a comparatively new design (which you may already have heard about) called Firefly has been developed by the Hammarprodukter Company of Sweden and which is currently being marketed by P & R Technologies Inc. of Portland Oregon and throughout Europe. These have been used by Western Power, our local electricity company and are extremely effective. The only drawback is they are much more expensive. I can send you pictures of both the Firefly and the Clydesdale on email if it helps. Regards Ellen

Dear Sir/Madam, I am director of the foundation that manages nature on Bonaire. Currently we are having problems with flamingoes flying into overhead lines of the power plant. I have noticed from documents online that in South Africa you have a lot of experience with flight diverters to make power lines visible to birds. Can you please indicate us to a person or company where we can get more information of kind of flight diverter device used especially with flamingoes? I hope you can help, it is urgent! Greetz, Elsmarie Beukenboom

Things that will happen if this project goes on... 1. New jobs in industry 2. Tons of jobs lost in Tourism (of course 1 - 2 is a negative number) 3. Very few people will earn a lot of money 4. Poverty will increase in region some day in the future.................... 1. Soda plant will close, after complete extraction of raw material 2. So, the job positions at plat will also vanish 3. Flamingos will be dead (or gone) 4. So, tourism will not be an option anymore 5. Poverty in region will increase much more People should use their brains and think ahead. Just look at regions based on mining..... after complete depletion of mines, industry moves away and a ghost or very poor town is left behind.

Why does a Tansanian President tackle a UN WILDLIFE RESERVATE? IFF YOU WANT SODA, GOTO LAKE EYASI and dig there. It is Dry and Easy to Excavate all season. It is not very far. The Only Reason to excavate the lake Natron would be to Conserve it. so that it doesnt shallow up. There a study?

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