Kilimanjaro’s melting glaciers a big concern

Monday October 25 2021
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By The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam,

Scientists have called for deliberate doubling of measures to combat global warming after a recent report by World Meteorological Organisation revealed that the rare glaciers on Mt Kilimanjaro as well as on other Africa’s top mountains were retreating rapidly and could disappear all together by 2040.

Speaking to The Citizen yesterday, the executive director of Africa Geological Centre, Mr George Rwegoshora, said the loss of the glaciers on Mt Kilimanjaro and other mountains in the region was likely to have a huge impact on the tourism and agriculture sectors, if deliberate measures were not taken urgently to address it. He attributed the reduction of glaciers at the mountains to human activities such as “deforestation around the mountains and industrialisation that produce carbon emissions” that are contributing to global warming. He suggested: “We need to now plant more trees and convert to clean energy such as solar and geothermal energy which have less carbon fuel.”

According to the report, the rare glaciers which were likely to disappear are located on Mt Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and the Rwenzori Mountains. The report noted that between 2014 and 2020, Furtwängler, Mount Kilimanjaro’s largest glacier, had shrunk 70 percent.

This glacier, says the report, was vital to the people living in the nearby areas, being a major source of freshwater. Moreover, its disappearance could severely impact Tanzania’s tourist industry, since the Kilimanjaro glaciers attract thousands of people from all over the globe each year.

The Rwenzori mountains in Uganda, which are often referred to as the “African Alps,” the “mountains of the moon,” or “the snowy source of the Nile,” and are also important tourist attractions, have lost up to 90 percent of their mass during the past decades. While the Kilimanjaro and the Rwenzori glaciers were expected to disappear by 2040, the situation in Kenya is even more dramatic: the Lewis Glacier, which lost over 90 percent of its volume since 1934 will vanish completely as early as 2030.


A Kenyan environmentalist and chairman of Kenya’s Water Towers Management Authority Isaac Kalua warned that when the melting of the glaciers starts, the rivers first experience high flows because of the melting ice. “But this subsequently reduces because the glaciers never really recover like they did before climate change became a reality. Because of this, there is less and less water in the rivers in the years that follow,’’ Kalua told a US-based science website

WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said,“During 2020, the climate indicators in Africa were characterized by continued warming temperatures, accelerating sea-level rise, extreme weather and climate events, such as floods, landslides and droughts, and associated devastating impacts. The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system.”

If no adequate response measures are urgently put in place, this weather and climate variability will lead to a significant disruption of ecological, economic, and social systems, and expose over 118 million people who already fight with poverty to droughts, floods, and extreme heat.

“This will place additional burdens on poverty alleviation efforts and significantly hamper growth in prosperity,” concluded said Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture in the African Union Commission in a statement accompanying the report.

The State of the Climate in Africa 2020 report highlights Africa’s disproportionate vulnerability but also reveals how investing in climate adaptation, early warning systems, and weather and climate services can pay off.

It said climate change contributed to mounting food insecurity, poverty and displacement in Africa last year.

Apart from worsening drought which impacted agriculture, there was extensive flooding recorded in East and West Africa in 2020, the report noted, while a locust infestation of historic proportions, which began a year earlier, continued to wreak havoc.