- Tanzania may not afterall go ahead with the planned soda ash plant at Lake Natron, but would rather exploit the value of the lake in eco-tourism activities that would benefit the local communities.
This was an assurance given by Tanzania's official, when speaking at a recent conference of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
Tanzania's Environment Minister, Dr Batilda Salha Buriani, outlined the value of Lake Natron as the world's most important breeding site for Lesser Flamingos )Phoeniconaias minor). She stated that Lake Natron is: "The sole breeding ground of up to 2.5 million flamingos ... representing 75% of the global population".
She further stated that cautious conservation and wise use of wetlands could offer sustainable economic and social activities.
Further allaying fears of a possible construction of a soda ash plant in Lake Natron, she said Tanzanian government is cautious of projects to be approved by the lake, saying decisions that will be made will not be at the expense of nature and ecosystems values.
Tanzania has a proposal to construct a plant capable of producing 500,000 tonnes of soda ash at Lake Natron, the project that its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment was recently withdrawn after worldwide opposition.
She said the government recognises the contribution of Lake Natron to accelerated national economic growth, meeting the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable livelihoods of local communities and to poverty reduction initiatives, through tourism.
"Let me reiterate Tanzania's unfaltering commitment to the effective implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands," commented Dr Buriani.
BirdLife's Head of Conservation Richard Grimmett said the Tanzanian government and the global community had a unique opportunity to enhance the conservation values of Lake Natron for the benefit of local communities and its extraordinary wildlife.
"There are few places on earth like Lake Natron. We should take advantage of the current goodwill to protect it in perpetuity," he said.
BirdLife International believes the development, and associated infrastructure, will displace and scatter the Lesser Flamingos, and is spearheading the "Think Pink" campaign to conserve Lake Natron.
Nature Uganda's Executive Director and BirdLife Africa's Wetlands focal point, Achilles Byaruhanga, said Africa faces many challenges including extreme poverty. However he urged Tanzania not to fall into temptation of bigger projects that has negative effects on environment while trying address persistent poverty.
Lake Natron is the sole breeding site for Lesser Flamingos which represent about 75 percent of the global population.
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