Home > Editorial > Lake Natron chemical plant: a threat to regional eco-tourism

Lake Natron chemical plant: a threat to regional eco-tourism

A huge chemical production plant proposed for Tanzania’s Lake Natron has been developed the latest voice concern over by the African Tourism and Travel Association. Nigel Vere Nicholl, chairman of the African Tourism and Travel Association (ATTA), said: “Spectacular flocks of flamingos are one of the major attractions for tourists visiting the Great Rift Valley from all over the world. Given the massive contribution ecotourism makes to the East African economy, it just doesn’t make sense to jeopardise these wonderful birds and this very special and unspoilt place. If this development goes ahead who knows what may happen next”.

Tanzania is awaiting the number of tourists to climb from 580,000 in 2004 to one million in 2010. Presently many are attracted towards the one million Lesser Flamingos that breed on Lake Natron each year—the so-called ‘greatest wildlife spectacle on Earth’. Tanzania and Kenya gain worth US$2 billion annually through ecotourism while tourists visiting Lake Natron alone eat up US$500,000 each year.

Lake Natron in Tanzania is the only East African site where the Lesser Flamingo nests fruitfully. Plenty of food enables three quarters of the world’s population of this inscrutable bird to breed there, nesting sites in abundance and because the lake survives in almost total isolation, free from outside interruption.

The proposed development has globally been opposed at the proclamation from the African Tourism and Travel Association. BirdLife Partners worldwide and influential voices like Sir David Attenborough are encouraging the campaign. Graham Wynne, the RSPB’s Chief Executive, said: “If Lake Natron is developed, East Africa will no longer be such a lure for tourists. But it is the whole of the world that will be the loser. This is much more than just the loss of a few birds”.

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