LAKE NATRON SODA ASH FACTORY – BY HOOK OR CROOK
The long Easter weekend produced some startling information from Tanzania, when it became known that the Minister for Industry and Trade stated categorically that even if the still in the making Environmental Impact Assessment study would recommend against the building of a soda ash plant on the shores of Lake Natron, the project would nevertheless go ahead, regardless of objections.
Lake Natron is the ONLY breeding ground for the presently millions of flamingos, traversing the Great African Rift Valley every year in search of food before returning to the hot mud flats of Lake Natron, where they make mud nests and lay their eggs, which mature assisted by temperatures well into the 40’s C every day. This being the only breeding ground for the bird species has attracted a wide coalition of opponents to the project, which is being promoted by India’s Tata Industries. It is expected that court action will be launched against the project and a global ‘anti Tata alliance’ be formed to exert both legal and PR pressure on the company to mend their ways and respect the environment and biodiversity of an already fragile ecosystem which Lake Natron undoubtedly is.
Flamingos are said to be sensitive to the slightest disturbance and the establishment of an extraction plant in Lake Natron, a net of pipelines to the production facility and sharply increased human movement and activity will according to experts in flamingo lore lead to a significant reduction in the bird population, if not their extinction in years to come, robbing Eastern Africa of a crucial component of natural attractions.
Only recently has president Kikwete given the directive to the ministry to go ahead with the project, when visiting the ministry, causing an outcry by conservationists around the globe, and earning the Tanzanian leader yet more nick names, besides ‘Serengeti Killer’ with the now added ‘Flamingo Killer’.
The Tanzanian government has been particularly insensitive to the concerns of the conservation fraternity in regard to their plans to cut the Serengeti apart by constructing a highway across a crucial migration route of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras, terming opponents as ‘enemies of progress’ and ‘paid foreign agents’, as if to prepare the ground to eventually silence and imprison those leading protests against their ludicrous plans. When more recently the president also ordered the withdrawal of an application to UNESCO to recognize the Eastern Arc Mountains as a World Heritage Site, his critics saw yet more evidence that Kikwete was deep in the pockets of mining and logging interests, and no amount of lip service about pro tourism conservation and anti poaching measures will now divert attention from the apparent true intent of Kikwete during his final term of office to hammer through his anti conservation agenda.
Other related plans, interlinked with the Serengeti highway – itself skirting Lake Natron and providing an access road to the planned soda ash factory – have also recently come to light and will be discussed in a related article shortly. There a greater agenda will be unearthed and it will be revealed how the starting point of a new traffic axis will also very likely destroy a marine habitat at the Tanzanian coast, again showing evidence how little today’s leadership cares about the legacy left by founding father ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, who had pledge to maintain Tanzania’s biodiversity through conservation for future generations. Seemingly, this no longer counts now as the financial interests of global mining conglomerates recklessly push aside whatever stands in their way.
Watch this space.