One of nature's most spectacular sights - millions of pink flamingos migrating between the Rift Valley's alkaline lakes - is in danger of disappearing forever, according to conservationists. Tata Chemicals, part of the giant Tata industrial group in India, plans to construct a soda-ash plant on Lake Natron in northern Tanzania, the most important breeding spot for the endangered lesser flamingo. Each summer 500,000 of the birds, three-quarters of the world's breeding population, fly to the lake to nest. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds yesterday described Tata's plans as "bonkers" and warned that they could ruin the breeding site. It says that India's largest conglomerate, which has entered into a joint venture with Tanzania's government, plans to install heavy machinery on the shoreline to extract half a million tonnes of soda ash, or sodium carbonate, each year. Tata also plans to build a coal-fired power station and house 1,200 construction workers on site. Chris Magin, the RSPB's officer for Africa, said that the development could leave the lesser flamingo - classified as a "near-threatened species" on the World Conservation Union red list - facing extinction. "The chances of lesser flamingos continuing to breed at Lake Natron in the face of such mayhem are next to zero," he said.


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