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Environmental assaults will cost East Africa dearly

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Wolfgang H. Thome  Jun 19, 2008

KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) - A recent United Nations environmental report again casts grave doubts over the continued existence of the Rwenzori Mountain glaciers, which have already shrunk to a fraction of their previous size.

The past 20 to 30 years, in particular, are said to have caused the most extensive shrinkage of the ice fields, when major portions melted away and no amount of fresh snow was able to keep them intact. Like the snow on Kilimanjaro, the Rwenzori glaciers are now also feared to disappear over the next 20 years, with potentially explosive and devastating consequences for the communities most relying on them.

Much of the so-called normal melt off waters from the Mountains of the Moon feed streams and small rivers, from which surrounding farming communities draw their water for irrigation, for their livestock and their own use while the Kilimanjaro waters, in addition to farming use in Tanzania and Kenya, also constitute much of the Kenyan coast’s water supply, pumped to Mombasa from as far as the Tsavo West National Park’s Mzima Springs.

The lack of snow and ice caps would, therefore, have devastating consequences for both agriculture and tourism (Kilimanjaro is a national park and surrounded by yet more national parks and reserves and the Rwenzori Mountains too are a national park and have several game reserves and parks in their immediate neighborhood) and would pose further socioeconomic problems when the water pipelines, leading from the foothills of Kilimanjaro to (Kenyan town) Machakos and Mombasa would run dry.

The UN report alleges that between the late '80s and early this decade up to 50 percent shrinkage alone was recorded through satellite image comparisons and that the trend was in fact accelerating. In the face of these alarming report, however, coordinated assaults against the environment continue across Eastern Africa under the pretext of industrialization with little, if any, attention given to the impact of such decisions on the environment in the medium to long term.

Meanwhile, other environmental watchdog reports also warn of further desertification in Uganda – and in fact also large parts of Africa – where over the past 15 years the area under such threat is said to have grown from 40 percent to 50 percent, largely attributed to poor environmental practices, often indiscriminate cutting of trees and forested patches for firewood and charcoal and other environmentally degrading behavior by fast growing human populations.

Environmental assaults will cost East Africa dearly

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