Lake Natron faces renewed threat from soda-ash mining
Embargoed until 00:01 GMT 26th August 2009
BirdLife has learnt that a Tanzanian Government Agency is seeking to buy mining equipment for large-scale soda ash extraction from Lake Natron – the most important breeding site for Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor [Near Threatened] in the world. “This is worrying indeed”, said Lota Melamari - the CEO of Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST-BirdLife in Tanzania).
“An advert for the supply of mining equipment, and a recent announcement of the expansion of the railway and building of new port at Tanga to handle soda ash all point to deliberate efforts to keep alive the intention of mining Lake Natron's soda ash", added Lota Melamari.
The Tanzania Investment Centre, a Tanzanian Government Agency, is inviting interested parties to quote for the “Supply of machinery and equipment, as well as trucks in a greenfield soda ash/caustic soda processing plant”. The advert was placed on behalf of KDCL Minerals (T) Ltd - a private company which states that the $US 125 million project at Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania will produce approximately 200,000 tonnes of soda ash annually.
Three-quarters of the world’s population of Lesser Flamingo live in East Africa – and all depend on Tanzania’s Lake Natron as a breeding site. The development and associated infrastructure could permanently prevent the birds from nesting at Lake Natron, spelling doom for the region’s spectacular flamingo flocks.
“This is worrying indeed” —Lota Melamari, CEO of Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST-BirdLife in Tanzania)
In opposition to development proposals of 2007, BirdLife launched its ‘Think Pink’ campaign. At the same time the Lake Natron Consultative Group - a coalition of 49 mainly African institutions - was formed to urge the Tanzanian Government to abandon the project. “Through campaigns like Think Pink, the world, local communities, Tanzanian NGOs and ordinary citizens have said a big ‘No’ to the project - this will not change”, warned Ken Mwathe of BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat and Coordinator of Lake Natron Consultative Group.
Earlier plans for mining Lake Natron involved Tata Chemicals Ltd. and the governmental National Development Corporation. BirdLife welcomed the withdrawal last year of an initial, inadequate and inappropriate Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), and is awaiting a new ESIA to be produced and reviewed by a competent team of experts. “The Tanzanian Government has promised, and consistently maintained, that no new ESIA would be conducted before having in place an Integrated Management Plan for the Lake Natron Ramsar Site, and this process is still ongoing”, concluded Lota.
For press enquiries:
Nick Askew, Communications Officer - BirdLife International. Tel: +44 (0)1223 279809 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Free images to be alongside this story can be downloaded using the ‘High-Res’ button from: http://www.birdlife.org/flamingo/photos.html
For additional information contact:
Ken Mwathe - BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat and Coordinator of Lake Natron Consultative Group, Tel: +254 20 8562246/8562490, Mobile: +254 734 600905 or +254 722 200238 or +254733926191, Email: email@example.com
Lota Melamari - the CEO of Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST-BirdLife in Tanzania). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel: +255 (22) 211 2518; Mobile: +255 784 462211
Notes to Editors:
BirdLife International launched the Think Pink campaign against the soda ash development proposed by the Government of Tanzania at Lake Natron. Details of the campaign are here: http://www.birdlife.org/flamingo
The Lake Natron Consultative Group was formed in 2007 to raise awareness on the threat to Lake Natron and Lesser Flamingos by the soda ash mining proposal. The Group currently has 49 member institutions covering Africa, Asia, Europe and Americas, and is coordinated from the BirdLife International, Africa Partnership Secretariat by Ken Mwathe (Ken.Mwathe@birdlife.or.ke).
Soda ash is the active ingredient in washing soda. The chemical name for it is sodium carbonate.
To nest successfully, Lesser Flamingo require very specific conditions. Lake Natron - and no other site - provides these. The proposed plant poses major risks to the Lesser Flamingos from disturbance, and changes in the water balance and chemistry of the lake. Soda ash mining also threatens the tourism industry throughout East Africa and the livelihoods of the local people who depend on the lake basin for their sustenance.
In 2001, the Tanzanian government listed Lake Natron as a Ramsar Site under the international Ramsar wetlands treaty. Lake Natron has also been designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.
Lesser Flamingo stand between four and five feet high, but is the smallest of the six flamingo species.
Lesser Flamingo is classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES and on Appendix II of the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species.
There are thought to be between 2.2 and 3.25 million Lesser Flamingos in the world of which between 1.5m and 2.5m are found in East Africa. The global population is declining because of habitat loss and contamination. Lack of breeding at Lake Natron will reduce the region’s population.
Sir David Attenborough - Naturalist and Broadcaster – said: “Lake Natron’s vast flocks of shimmering pink flamingos are one of the world’s greatest wildlife attractions. These spectacular birds deserve the strongest protection we can offer them. Any threat to their future would not only be an ecological disaster, it would deal a huge blow to tourism in East Africa which helps ensure the survival of the region’s spectacular wildlife and wild places”.
Lake Natron Resources Limited, a company jointly owned by the Government of Tanzania and Tata Chemicals Ltd. of Mumbai, India, intially proposed to develop a facility at Lake Natron to extract and process soda ash.
Tata withdraw the origional ESIA, and we believe that they have withdrawn from the project until environmental issues were cleared due to negative publicity.
Walt Disney have chosen Lake Natron's Lesser Flamingos to star in their first wildlife blockbuster in nearly half a century. The Crimson Wing - Mystery of the Flamingos takes viewers to the isolated shores of Lake Natron, in northern Tanzania, for a birds-eye view of the mysterious and perilous lives of Lesser Flamingos. The reminds the world of the threats facing one the worlds greatest wildlife spectacles. See clip below:
Credits: This news was bought to you by BirdLife's Think Pink Campaign.