Kilimanjaro region plans a massive tree planting campaign to recover the diminishing ice cap on top of Mt Kilimanjaro - Africa’s highest peak.
“We are really committed to saving the mountain from the overwhelming environmental destruction,” said Rombo district commissioner Peter Toima.
Toima was speaking at the climax of a vegetable growers’ exhibition in Marangu area, Moshi Rural district, organised by Floresta Tanzania a Christian non-governmental organisation that works on reversing poverty and deforestation in the world by transforming the lives of the rural poor.
He said: “Days are numbered for illegal loggers and those involved in causing fire in the forest. We will also work closely with local government leaders on collective mountain conservation and its flora and fauna.”
According to Toima, other measures include sensitising local leaders on a need to conserve natural forests and a need for them to encourage people on the importance of planting more trees.
Toima noted that the region was aware of ongoing human induced activities along the margins of the mountain, which supported the lives of over three million people.
“The lives of these people are at risk and as leaders we cannot keep quiet. So, we’ve put measures in place to avert the negative impacts caused by the vice. The level of degradation of the forest belt of Mt Kilimanjaro is high and, therefore, there is a need for ecosystem sustainability,” he said, calling for prompt measures to curb further destruction of the forests.
There is a need for concerted effort to ensure optimal sustainability of the world’s natural heritage site is bestowed on the mountain by a declaration in 1987.
He cited some of the human activities as unmanaged logging of indigenous trees, burnt forest areas for charcoal production, livestock grazing and poor farming practices along the slopes of the protected mountain.
“The degradation is also caused by quarrying in the forest reserve, unplanned forest villages and plots for farming in the forest reserve, landslides resulting from intensive logging and poaching in the forest reserve,” the DC stressed.
He noted that Mt Kilimanjaro was rich not only in biodiversity but also was a crucial water catchment area for Tanzania and Kenya. About 96 per cent of the water flowing from the mountain originated from the forest reserve belt.
The mountain has a substantial snow and ice-capped peak for over 11,000 years but now there is much concern that the natural wonder (it is the only snow-covered mountain in the Equatorial region) has apparently fallen victim of human destructive activities during the last 100 years.
It is estimated that Mt Kilimanjaro’s ice cap volume has dropped by over 80 per cent. While in 1901, there was approximately 12.1 square kilometres of ice on the mountain, aerial photographs taken in 2000 showed only 2.2 square kilometres remained.
“The truly disturbing point is that most of the loss has occurred since 1970,” the DC said, noting that the glaciers were, indeed, the source of water for people’s livelihoods and for several rivers, such as Pangani, which originate from the slopes of the mountain.
He said all these had been caused by rampant tree felling along the slopes of the mountain that led to high temperature, which destroyed the ice-cap at the roof the mountain.
Development stakeholder Crispin Meela also expressed his dissatisfaction over the slow pace in addressing environmental degradation along the mountain.
He appealed to the government to set aside a certain amount of fund purchasing seedlings that needed to be freely distributed to local people in the area.