MELTING GLACIERS OF UGANDA’S RWENZORI MOUNTAINS WORRY ENVIRONMENTALISTS

Environmentalists have expressed great concern over the high melting rate of the glaciers of the Rwenzori Mountains along the border of Ugana and the Democratic Republic of Congo and whose peaks reach more than 6,000 metres high.

Located in western Uganda, the great Rwenzori Mountains -- also known as the Mountains of the Moon -- are a major tourist attraction with its snow-capped peaks.

"We have been monitoring the rate of the melting of ice on top of the mountain and the rate at which it is melting is alarming but I should say that it is as a result of climate change," said John Magezi, an environmental expert who led a team of researchers to the mountains recently.

He added that Uganda had been severely ravaged by climate change and warned that in a few decades the ice on top of the Mountains of the Moon might be no more.

"The frequency of hot days in the country has increased significantly while that of cold days is decreasing and that is clear and strong evidence that Uganda is experiencing the effects of climate change," said Magezi.

The continued melting of glaciers on the Rwenzori Mountains over the years and now even at an accelerated rate clearly indicates a rise in temperature and consequently, climate change.

Magezi attributed the glacial recession to higher air temperatures and less snow accumulation and warned that some animal species on the mountain might face extinction because they had adapted to the cool climate but now the climate is changing.

"Some animal species which have been used to the cool climate of the mountains could face extinction in the near future because it is becoming hot.

Jimmy Tumwesigye, a project officer with ECOTRUST, a conservation organization based in the United States, said they were also promoting afforestation on private land within the surrounding communities near the Rwenzori Mountain National Park under its community-based carbon setting scheme "Trees for Global Benefit".

This scheme supports the integration of tree planting in the livelihood strategies of small-scale landholder farmers using carbon credits.

"We are working with the communities near the national park and we have now conserved the gateway to the Rwenzori National Park because all the natural vegetation had been cleared," added Tumwesigye.

The glaciers occur on only three peaks of the range -- Mounts Stanley, Baker and Speke.

Research indicates that the ice caps on the Rwenzori Mountains have shrunk significantly in the last century. The percentage of ice loss on Mt. Baker is 96 per cent followed by Mt Speke 91 per cent while Mt Stanley has the lowest percentage of ice loss at 69 per cent.

According to the Global Outlook for Ice and Snow 2007, if they continue to recede as they have since 1906, some experts warn that they will be gone in the next few years.

According to the 4th IPCC assessment report, Uganda will experience an increase in average temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 20 years and it is estimated that by 2080, Uganda's temperatures will be 43 degrees Celsius.

Source: NEW VISION