Arusha volcano to become geo-park

UNESCO to declare volcano a global geological heritage site

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is to declare Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania's active volcano, a site of global geological heritage. Located in the Gregory Rift, south of Lake Natron in the Arusha region, the volcano is almost 3,000-m high and is the country's third highest mountain after Mt Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.

It is the only volcano in the world that spouts natrocarbonatite lava, a highly fluid lava that contains a large amount of sodium but almost no silicon. Due to its relatively low temperature (around 500 degrees Celsius) the erupting lava appears black instead of the usual red glow associated with most molten lava. This also results in the surrounding volcanic landscape being different from any other in the world.

The volcano is set to join the international network of geo-parks, signifying it as a site whose geological heritage is of international significance. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) said it will work with UNESCO to use the volcano's new heritage status to raise awareness on key geological issues facing the planet in relation to volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Translating from the Maasai language as “Mountain of God”, Ol Doinyo Lengai's periodical eruptions make it the epicentre of volcanic activity in the east and central African region. Records show that the mountain has exploded almost 20 times between 1880 and 2008.