Reforest Africa’s highest mountain to help protect vital water supplies

 

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Aerial view of the dwindling ice on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Reforesting Kilimanjaro could ease East Africa’s severe water shortages – UN

There is a need to reforest Africa’s highest mountain to help protect vital water supplies that are under threat across large parts of East Africa, a UN Environment report urged today.

The loss of Mount Kilimanjaro’s forests could trigger water crisis as rivers begin to dry up, notes the report, entitled Sustainable Mountain Development in East Africa in a Changing Climate, which was launched at the World Mountain Forum in Uganda today.

The report stresses that climate change has already destroyed 13,000 hectares of the mountain’s forests since 1976 – equivalent to cutting off a year’s supply of drinking water for one million people.

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Mt. Kilimanjaro’s forests are a vital source of water for the surrounding towns and the wider region. Water from the mountain feeds one of Tanzania’s largest rivers, the Pangani, providing food, fuel and building materials to much of East Africa.

The report notes that higher temperatures as a result of climate change have increased the number of wildfires on the mountain and thus accelerated the destruction of forests. Because there are now fewer trees to trap water from clouds, the annual amount of dew on the mountain is believed to have fallen by 25 per cent.

As an example of the dire impact of this situation, UNEP notes that the town of Moshi, which is located in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, is already experiencing severe water shortages as rivers begin to dry up, starving farmland of water in an area already struggling to cope with a dramatic drop in rainfall.

The report urges Tanzania to protect Mt. Kilimanjaro’s water catchment area by reforesting the mountain, investing in early warning systems and making climate adaptation a top priority.

Read the full article: UN NEWS CENTRE

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.