One of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles may never be seen again if the path is cleared today (November 2) for major industrial development on a remote and isolated lake in Africa’s Great Rift Valley.
Officials in Tanzania are to assess plans for a soda ash plant on Lake Natron, an internationally recognised wetland and the globe’s most important breeding site for the threatened lesser flamingo.
They will advise Environment Minister Mark Mwandosya on whether to allow Lake Natron Resources, jointly owned by the Tanzanian Government and the Indian company TATA Chemicals, to pump more than 100,000 litres of freshwater and 550,000 litres of brine (saltwater) from the area every hour, for the production of soda ash, a material used in glass and dye production.
A coal-fired power station, road and rail links and housing for 1,200 construction workers would be built at the site. The development would seriously harm tourism in three countries and could cause Lake Natron’s international wetland designation to be withdrawn.
The leaders of conservation groups in 23 African countries have signed a petition urging the Tanzanian government to turn down the proposal and their campaign has been backed by naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.
Sir David 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 is in northern Tanzania close to the Kenyan border. More than one million lesser flamingos nest on the lake and it is likely that every one of East Africa’s 1.5 to 2.5 million lesser flamingos – three-quarters of the world’s population - hatched at the site.
The lake’s isolation safeguards the birds from predators and its food-rich waters, and the freshwater close by, create ideal breeding conditions. Its vast salt flats have been East Africa’s only nesting place for lesser flamingos for 45 years.
Studies suggest that wildlife tourism in Tanzania and Kenya is worth US$2 billion annually and that those visiting East Africa primarily to see lesser flamingos spend up to US$12 million every year.
Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB, who attended the African conservationists’ meeting last month, said: “Lake Natron is a truly extraordinary place in a beautiful and unspoilt landscape, steeped in Masai culture and absolutely invaluable to wildlife. The loss of lesser flamingos could seriously harm tourism in the region and mean people losing their jobs, their land and the natural resources that belong only to Africa.
“Disturbing these birds by allowing this development may well drive them from Lake Natron for good and create water shortages for nomadic communities and their animals. There is no reason on earth to allow this ill-conceived project. The economics are weak and the implications for wildlife and for the environment are deeply depressing.”
The soda ash plant would alter Lake Natron’s chemical balance, destroying the spirulina on which the birds feed and the development could attract Marabou storks which have been linked with nest desertion by greater flamingos elsewhere. Other wildlife could also be harmed including the chestnut-banded plover, the fringe-eared oryx and an endemic fish species.
Tanzania’s National Environment Management Council will today consider the environmental assessment for the project before making its recommendation to the minister.
The assessment says that information on lesser flamingos “strongly suggests that the project will entail a significant degree of risk for this species in the longer term that is not capable of direct mitigation”.
Ato Mengistu Wondafrash, of BirdLife International’s Africa Partnership, said: “Lake Natron secures a way of life for nomadic communities and the flamingos produce a thriving tourist economy. To jeopardize this for an ill-considered development would be economic, and moral, suicide.”
Dr Hazell Thompson, Head of BirdLife’s Africa Division, said: “Africa is making great strides towards conserving its immense biodiversity and Tanzania must think clearly of what this decision on Lake Natron will say of its environmental credentials.
“This is a clear opportunity for the Tanzanian government to continue showing moral and environmental responsibility in Africa by taking a decision not to proceed with the soda ash development.”
Cath Harris | alfa
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences