African scientists support Lake Natron flamingos

This video is called Tanzania Flamingo population threatened by industrial project.

From The East African in Kenya:

Africa: African Scientists Oppose L. Natron Soda Ash Plant

19 October 2008
Posted to the web 20 October 2008

Catherine Riungu

Over 250 scientists attending the 12th Pan African Ornithological Congress in South Africa have opposed the proposed soda ash plant on Lake Natron that could jeopardise the survival of 75 per cent of the world’s [lesser] flamingoes.

The scientists have written to the Tanzanian and Kenyan authorities seeking cancellation of the project and recognition of Lake Natron as a Ramsar site — a wetland of international significance — that requires government protection.

Plans by Tata Chemicals of India and Tanzania’s National Development Corporation to establish a soda ash plant with an annual production capacity of 0.5 million tonnes at the lake have met with stiff opposition from environmental conservationists.

The congress, which took place near Cape Town, noted that Lake Natron is the world’s most significant breeding site for the Lesser Flamingo, listed as near-threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

It further noted that the lake is the only site in East Africa where this species breeds regularly and successfully and one of only five such sites in the world.

The lake is also recognised as a Ramsar site as well as an Important Bird Area, the scientists noted.

The congress warned that the project will destroy the lake and the 1.5-2.5 million flamingoes dependent on it for survival, a fact that has been confirmed by an Environmental and social impact assessment.

Congress chairperson Prof Adrian Craig has written to the Tanzanian government, urging it to maintain fully the ecological integrity of Lake Natron as a breeding site for the Lesser Flamingo, recognise the large scientific uncertainties surrounding potential impact of any major infrastructural development at or near the lake, and to adopt the Precautionary Principle, ruling out any developments that could pose a risk to the flamingoes.

The congress also wants the government to ensure a transparent and participatory process in preparation of the integrated management plan for the Lake Natron Ramsar site currently being developed, ensure that this plan underpins the conservation of the Lake Natron ecosystem in perpetuity, and the use of its resources in a manner that does not put biodiversity and people’s livelihoods at risk.

The congress further urged Tanzania and Kenya to initiate co-operation for the conservation and wise use of Lake Natron following the principle of cross-border co-operation.

Such co-operation is enshrined in several multilateral environmental agreements, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Migratory Species and the Africa-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement to which both states are party.

Apart from fears that the project could affect the breeding of 75 per cent of the world’s Lesser Flamingo due to increased disturbance from the presence of humans and vehicular traffic, it could also bring about changes in the volume and chemical composition of the water and increase the presence of predators.

Other concerns include the possible destruction of local pastoralist livelihoods as pastures are encroached on and water resources depleted.

Estimates show that, in 15 hours, the plant will use enough water to meet the needs of 40,000 cattle.

There also fears that the project could expose the local community to an increased risk of contracting HIV/Aids due to an influx of people, and destroy the tourism appeal of the lake area as a result of loss of wilderness quality, negatively affecting the economies of Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, which rely on flamingo-related tourism.

Tanzania earned $746 million from tourism in 2004 while Kenya earned $886 million in 2006.

There also concerns about increased environmental degradation and pressure on natural resources such as fuelwood and water; increased pollution from the plant’s by-products and waste from the urban centre that could affect the health of the local people and lead to an increased incidence of respiratory diseases.

Tanzanian Minister outlines Natron’s value: here.

Natron’s flamingos star in Disney film: here.

Flamingo chicks, which are being tagged to monitor the evolution of the species, move around a pen at the Fuente de Piedra lagoon, 70 kms from Malaga. The lagoon, which is the most important breeding ground for flamingos in the Iberian peninsula, is also a nature reserve and a haven for birds with over 170 different species recorded. Photos here.

8 thoughts on “African scientists support Lake Natron flamingos

  1. Lake Natron is such a special place , I wonder if anyone has done a costing to show how much more money the area might make for Tanzania as a new National Park. Salt or tourism? A quick look at other Tz. National Parks and their yearly fees collected, might suggest what is the most profitable.
    Cheers,James Christian
    Karisia Walking Safaris


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