Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Development authority still keen on investing in soda ash production

By Alex Bitekeye, The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. The National Development Corporation (NDC) yesterday said research on the production of soda ash at Lake Natron was still going on.

Addressing journalists, NDC Corporate Affairs manager Abel Ngapemba said soda ash production required a thorough research concerning ecological effects on the flamingo breeding sites.

“This is a huge project which requires careful research considering the fact that almost 70 per cent of all flamingoes in the world are hatched in the area. There is a need to do a thorough cost-benefit analysis in a bid to establish the up and downside of the project,” said Mr Ngapemba.

According to NDC, the firms are seeking to set up a $500 million factory to exploit a 1 million metric-tonne reserve of soda ash annually.

However, the plan to mine the deposits has been strongly opposed by residents and conservationists who fear that such a move would affect the flamingo population in the area adversely.

“We have three different research activities in the area. These include a bird specialist with a duty to study living habits of the flamingoes and others who are carrying out research on how to mine soda ash,” said Mr Ngapemba. For his part, the head of Infrastructure Strategy,

Eng Pascal Malesa, said it was anticipated that the environmental assessment studies will also propose that environment-friendly technologies be used to extract and process the soda ash for export, as the government seeks to sidestep growing environmental concerns.

Lake Natron and Engaruka areas, nearly 220km from Arusha, have reserves of at least 4.7 billion cubic metres of soda ash.

It was also noted that NDC is still scrutinizing the bids placed by six foreign companies which plan to set up a controversial soda ash plant on the shores of Lake Natron.