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Lake Natron chemical plant

…region’s ecotourism ‘jeopardised’

The African Tourism and Travel Association has become the latest to voice concern over a huge chemical production plant proposed for Tanzania’s Lake Natron, the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) today report. Nigel Vere Nicholl, chairman of the African Tourism and Travel Association (ATTA), shares BirdLife’s concerns over the threat that the development poses to the region’s Lesser Flamingo and the growing ecotourism trade to which the birds are linked:

“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.” he said.

The number of tourists visiting Tanzania is expected to rise from 580,000 in 2004 to one million in 2010. Currently many are drawn to see the one million Lesser Flamingos that breed on Lake Natron each year – the so-called ‘greatest wildlife spectacle on Earth’.

Ecotourism in Tanzania and Kenya is worth US$2 billion annually while tourists visiting Lake Natron alone spend US$500,000 each year.Tanzania’s Lake Natron is the only East African site where the Lesser Flamingo nests successfully. Three quarters of the world’s population of this enigmatic bird breed there because food is plentiful, nesting sites abound and because the lake exists in almost total isolation, free from outside disturbance. The announcement from the African Tourism and Travel Association forms part of what has become a global campaign opposing the proposed development. The campaign is supported by BirdLife Partners worldwide and influential voices like Sir David Attenborough.

“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.” said the RSPB’s Chief Executive, Graham Wynne.

4th July 2014