Lake Natron: RAMSAR team to arrive for wide-ranging consultations

A RAMSAR Advisory Mission (RAM) is to arrive in-country on 17th February for a two week mission to collect the views of different stakeholders and lay the foundations for the preparation of a management plan for Lake Natron. The arrival of the mission comes as an application to construct and operate a Soda Ash Factory by Lake Natron Resources Ltd approaches an adavanced stage. Recently a public hearing on the Economic and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the new development was held - please click here for more information. The RAM is a "Ramsar" mission - it will be led by the Ramsar Secretariat and include the following key partner's organizations which will play a major role in the implementation of the mission: 1. The Convention on Migratory Species - CMS. 2. UNEP/AEWA Secretariat, African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement3. The World Conservation Union - IUCN4. Birdlife International - BI5. 3 representatives from Kenya In addition to these organizations, the mission will be accompanied by one consultant on conservation and environmental issues and another one who will be looking at the socio-economic aspects of the mission. The Government of Tanzania will appoint a representative to work with and assist the mission. The mission will be a fact finding exercise with emphasis on recommendations and options that are available to the GoT to comply with its commitments to MEAs such as Ramsar, CMS and AEWA and at the same time to meet its sustainable development and poverty reduction objectives in the case of the Lake Natron Soda Ash project. Consultation opportunities for Civil Society There will be the following opportunities for communities, NGOs and the private sector to meet with RAM as follows:
18/02/2008 - DAR ES SALAAM1400 - 1800: Meeting with key NGOs and Civil Society Organizations (Protea Hotel) 22-25/02/08 - NATRONTravel to Natron and site visits and meeting stakeholders around Lake Natron 28/02/08 - ARUSHA0900 - 1230: A NGO ONLY meeting in Arusha at Malihai Clubs Conference, Njiro area1400 - 1800: A Private Sector/Tour Operator ONLY meeting in Arusha at Malihai Clubs Conference, Njiro area.
The role of the RAM team members The members of the RAM team will revise and analyze the information provided by various stakeholders (government, private sector and NGOs) and the data collected on the field. They will meet, collectively or individually, with key actors and institutions while in Tanzania to make sure that the mission has been as inclusive as possible. While the group is made up of a majority of members of institutions with a "conservation mandate", a socio-economist of the group will play a role of paramount importance as indicated in the ToR. The team will undertake the mission to advise the GoT regarding its obligations under the MEAs and also make recommendations on the best ways to proceed (or not) with the project. This includes action to be taken for the preparation of a management plan for the Ramsar site. Logistics Unless specified otherwise, meeting Venue in Dar es Salaam is Protea Hotel, Oysterbay, Nr St Peters, Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Haile Selassie Rd, e-mail:, phone: 255-222666665. Stakeholders are expected to cover their own costs of attendance (unless prior approval by Wildlife Division of expense re-imbursement has been obtained and notified). Provided shall be teas, and depending upon the group meeting times, lunch or dinner, as an opportunity for "informal" discussions ____________________________________ BACKGROUND AND OTHER INFORMATION Background Tanzania's Lake Natron Basin was designated as a Wetland of International Importance in 2001 under the provisions of the Ramsar Convention. The nomination document submitted by the Government of Tanzania cited Lake Natron as a representative example of an East African Rift Valley soda lake that is the only regular breeding site for Lesser Flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor) in East Africa. Lake Natron also hosts congregations of at least 100,000 individuals of other bird species, some of them long-distance Palearctic migrants. In the years since it was designated as a Ramsar site, Lake Natron has been seen to have a high potential for ecotourism with positive impacts on the socio-economic development of the region and the country. Despite the occurance of numerous populations of Lesser Flamingos across Eastern Africa, estimated at 1,5-2,5 million birds (more than 75% of the global population), during the last 50 years their only recorded breeding site has been at Lake Natron. Due to the vulnerability of the species, in 2006 CMS and AEWA commissioned the drafting of an International Single Species Action Plan for the Lesser Flamingo, which included consultation with the Range States. Implementation of the plan is scheduled in the near future. The Lesser Flamingo is listed in Appendix II of CMS and Columns A and B, categories 2 and 3, of the AEWA Table 1 of Annex 3. It is also categorised as "Near Threatened" in the latest IUCN Red List. Analysis of the current situation Based on recent information received by the Ramsar Secretariat from a number of stakeholders, the Ramsar Secretary General wrote to the Tanzanian Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism on 28 August 2007 to express concern about the possible threats to the Lake Natron Basin Ramsar site from the proposed development of a soda ash extraction facility and its associated infrastructure. Similarly, the Executive Secretaries of CMS and AEWA wrote together on 14 June 2007 to the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism to express concerns over the possible impact of the planned development on the lake's ecosystem, the East African population of the Lesser Flamingo, and the species as a whole. According to the information received by the Ramsar Secretariat, the proposal submitted by Lake Natron Resources Limited (a consortium of Tata Chemicals and the Tanzanian National Development Corporation) has now reached an advanced stage, including the commissioning in 2006 of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) which has been carried out by Norconsult (TZ). In July 2007 a limited number of stakeholders were invited to a presentation of a draft of the ESIA and a revised version has been prepared based on the comments of stakeholders invited to the presentation. In his 28 August 2007 letter to the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, the Ramsar Secretary General offered to assist the Government of Tanzania with its obligations under the Ramsar Convention through the services of a Ramsar Advisory Mission (RAM). Such Missions provide technical assistance towards the management and conservation of sites whose ecological character is threatened. On 30 August 2007, the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism wrote to the Ramsar Secretary General welcoming the proposed Ramsar Advisory Mission in order to assist Tanzania "to extract soda ash from Lake Natron, while safeguarding the environment, in particular the breeding habitats of lesser flamingo." The National Environment Management Council (NEMC) of Tanzania organized on 23 January 2008 at 10:00 AM a public hearing as part of the review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the proposed Lake Natron Soda Ash Project in Arusha Region. The information collected during this public hearing is not yet available to Ramsar, however it's anticipated that the submissions and comments received by the Council will be incorporated in the preparation of recommendations to the Government to guide approval and decision making on the project. The Wildlife Policy (2007) The Tanzanian Wildlife Policy (2007) provides for the Government of Tanzania to administer management plans for all Ramsar sites and the NAWESCO directives include a provision for local implementation of management plans through local government structures. As from July 2008 the Wildlife Division, with support from Danida SWM, intends to station a full-time Ramsar Site Manager in the Lake Natron Basin and place resources at the disposal of the 2 districts to initiate local action. There are also DANIDA resources available to produce an Integrated Management Plan for the Lake Natron Basin Ramsar Site and the RAM is seen as an opportunity to help develop a short term plan for the site as a first step towards a long term integrated management plan.