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Flamingos threaten Tatas' Tanzania venture

August 01, 2007 03:13 IST

Flamingos seem to have dashed Tata Chemicals' plan to set up a soda ash facility jointly with the Tanzanian government.

The joint venture, for which both the parties have signed a memorandum of understanding, has drawn criticism from the NGOs and environmentalists on the ground that it would cause extinction to the world's rarest birds -- the lesser flamingo.

Faced with the criticism, the Lake Natron Resources, the newly formed company for carrying out the project, has appointed a consulting agency to conduct an environmental and social implication study. Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Africa is one of the most critical voices against the project.  It said the possibility of flamingos continuing to breed near the lake, post the setting up of the plant, is near to zero.

Lake Natron has been the only breeding site for lesser flamingos in Africa for 45 years. Nearly summer 5,00,000 flamingos fly to the lake every summer, attracting tourists from all over the world. The plant, to be set up on the shores of Lake Natron in northern Tanzania and near the Kenya border, has become a political issue as well.

The Tanzanian government said it would go ahead with the project.

Tanzanian Prime Minister Edward Lowassa recently told Parliament, "There have been comments heard on the British Broadcasting Corporation concerning Lake Natron, which is near the border of Tanzania and Kenya. On the Kenyan side, they have a soda ash plant on Lake Magadi, but when Tanzania starts discussing the construction of a similar plant, we are told we will destroy the environment." 

The proposed development set up a soda ash extraction and processing plant.  It plans to extract around 5,00,000 tonnes of soda ash annually and will build a coal-fired power station as well as facilities for 1,200 workers at the site. 

The public relations agency for Tata Chemicals said the company did not want to comment on the issue.
Kausik Datta & Ishita Ayan Dutt