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Uganda Wildlife Authority assures tourism hiking trails and camps safe

More landslide threats on Mt. Elgon

wolfgang h. thome, etn  May 31, 2010

Latest information emerging from the east of the country indicate that further target="_blank">deep cracks are opening up on the mountain slopes, not far from where a major landslide claimed several hundred lives in March. The terrain is, according to sources, getting weaker, following yet more torrential rains, and the residents were warned earlier in the month to evacuate their homesteads ahead of more expected land and mudslides.

Farming methods are now being blamed as a major factor for these developments, as the residents relentlessly cut down the tree cover, which helped to not only absorb heavy rains but which roots also kept the soil together.

Residents, some illegally squatting inside the national park boundaries, are also not using terracing but grow crops up the steep slopes. This, according to sources sent to the area to assess the danger potential, helps trigger mudslides, which then often washes away not just the soil and the crops but also the homesteads built further down the steep mountainsides.

Some 8,000 people are said to be affected by the latest developments and remembering the death toll of several weeks ago, appear more willing to be moved to safer parts. According to reports from the site, the cracks have opened up from inches to feet, and with more rains on the way, it seems a just a matter of time before another massive landslide will come down the mountain.

It is also understood that several hundred hectares of deforested terrains are now earmarked for tree planting and re-forestation and that the project will start when the ground has sufficiently stabilized to allow safe planting operations by the teams of the forestry and wildlife departments.

Meanwhile, though, the rains continue with a vengeance, and even the west and southwest of the country are now beginning to suffer from landslides caused by the extreme weather conditions, with roads and bridges being flooded across widening areas.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has, however, also pointed out that hiking routes into and up Mt. Elgon National Park used by tourists are monitored and considered safe, and that the overnight camp areas and the ascend and descend route to the mountain top have shown no sign of potentially dangerous cracks or landslides. The clarification by UWA came following reported cancellations of hiking and climbing tours into the park, as reported in the local media in recent days.

Meanwhile, the meteorological department in Entebbe has warned that the current rains would extend well into June with above normal volumes compared to ordinary years’ recorded rainfall.

More landslide threats on Mt. Elgon
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