Tanzania is still working on its plan to establish soda ash processing plant along Lake Natron ecosystem in Longido and Monduli districts of Arusha, because of its socio-economic importance.
Arusha Regional Commissioner (RC), Magesa Mulongo revealed this here on Tuesday when addressing investors ahead of the forthcoming northern zone investors’ forum.
He said the government will not back-peddle on the investment plan because of its economic viabilities.
RC Mulongo said the government was aware of ecological importance of the area as it is the only significant and regular breeding site for the East-African population of Lesser Flamingo.
“The investment of soda ash processing plant will take on board all the raised concerns…a team of experts from National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) have already worked on the concerns and their recommendations will be taken into consideration before and after establishing the plant,” the RC said, calling upon investors who have interests on the investment to chip-in and invest in the area.
Lesser Flamingo population represents over 75 per cent of the world population of this species.
“This investment is one of the important investment opportunities the region have and we’ll use all what we have to make the project kick-start and people living close to the lake benefit out of the project,” the regional boss promised.
The Lake Natron Basin was added to the Ramsar List in 2001 as a representative example of a Rift Valley soda lake.
The official was optimistic that if the plant will be established along the lake shores, issues related to employment and social services delivery will be addressed.
Citing some of the previous research findings in the area, Mulongo said the area is one of the Soda ash richest in the world, as its deposit is estimated to be at 300 million tonnes.
“As government, we’ll continue to speed up the process to set up the plant, for the benefit of our people and economy,” he said, adding that apart from Soda ash, the area including that of Engaruka in Monduli district is very rich in geothermal and if invested it will add another investment on geothermal power.
Right now, Arusha ranks the eighth in contributing to GDP, (4.77 percent) after Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Mbeya and other regions.
“If this investment will be implemented Arusha will contribute a big share to the national coffers,” he said.
Longido Council Chairman, Joseph Ole Sandira asked the government to speed up the process of establishing Soda ash plant, in the area and ignore noises made by environmentalists, who have been campaigning against the soda ash plant.
“Environmentalists are campaigning against the proposed plant, without considering its economic importance,” he said, noting that people in the area have waited the project for many years.
Longido District Commissioner (DC), James Ole Millya said that the project is vital for the wellbeing of local communities living along the pristine lake.
He added that flamingos were important for the country's economy because they attract tourists in the area, but added that the project was equally worthwhile.
The DC said: “I am sure that the project can still take off without affecting the flamingo birds."
The plan to erect the plant hit a snag three years ago after environmentalists from across the globe protested against the plant, forcing an Indian firm—Tata Chemicals which had shown interest to invest in the area, to pull.