July 11, 2008

Sewage Threatens to Turn Flamingo Breeding Site into Cesspool

By Michael McCarthy Environment Editor

In one of the world's great wildlife spectacles, tens of thousands of lesser flamingos gather at a South African wetland - but it is a spectacle now gravely threatened by pollution.

Kamfers Dam, near Kimberley, is the only nesting site in the country - and one of only six breeding areas in the world. It has hosted more than 50,000 flamingos, and this year 9,000 chicks hatched on the dam's artificial flamingo island.

But conservationists believe that pollution from a sewage plant is causing deformities and could force the birds to desert the site. The dam is being used to dump raw sewage from a malfunctioning treatment plant owned by the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

"Without urgent action, the dam will become a polluted cesspool devoid of birdlife," said Duncan Pritchard, of BirdLife South Africa.

The main breeding site, Lake Natron in Tanzania, which holds between 1.5m and 2.5m birds, is under threat from the Indian multinational company Tata, which wants to build a massive soda ash plant on the lake.

"Lesser flamingos are facing enormous threats, most of which are being caused by man," said Paul Buckley, an Africa specialist working for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. "South and east Africa are incredibly important areas for these birds."

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