Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Walvis Bay

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Walvis Bay is an economic and environmental hotspot in Namibia. It has been designated as a free-trade area and placed on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The Walvis Bay lagoon, the largest area of shallow, sheltered water on the Namibian coast, supports a wide range of birdlife. Walvis Bay's tidal channels, mudflats, and sandbanks support roughly 150 000 birds, including the African black oystercatcher, lesser and greater flamingo, chestnut banded plover, and black-necked grebe.

Walvis Bay's solar evaporation facilities process 24 million metric tonnes of seawater each year, producing more than 400 000 metric tonnes of high-quality salt. The solar evaporation process occurs in a series of connected ponds through which seawater flows, evaporates, and deposits salt in crystallizing ponds. In 1973, the salt evaporation ponds were still relatively small (red and blue rectangles in the centre of the image). By 2005, however, they had grown to cover 3 500 hectares in the lagoon.

Most of the energy required to extract salt from seawater comes simply from sunlight and salt produced by this method is 99.7 per cent pure. About one-third of worldwide salt production uses this method, which, when properly managed, is very environmentally friendly.

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