UN secretary general to assess effects of climate change on Mount Kilimanjaro

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) - United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who is in three-day official visit in Tanzania, will fly over the ice-top of Mount Kilimanjaro this weekend to witness th

UN secretary general to assess effects of climate change on Mount Kilimanjaro

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who is in three-day official visit in Tanzania, will fly over the ice-top of Mount Kilimanjaro this weekend to witness the effects of climate change on the ice-cap of Africa’s highest point and leading tourist hot-spot in East Africa.

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Mr. Ban arrived in Tanzania Thursday for discussion with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete on regional crises facing the African continent and the UN’s peacekeeping activities in the continent.

Before leaving Tanzania, the UN secretary general will fly over Mount Kilimanjaro to assess, witness and get the first-hand view of the effects of global warming on the receding ice cap that covers the mountain, said the UN resident coordinator in Tanzania, Mr. Oscar Fernandez Taranco.

“To address the impacts of climate change while in Tanzania, the UN secretary general will draw attention to a number of regional and national issues with one of his main focus areas being the effects of climate change,” Mr. Taranco said.

The UN is currently working out programs aimed at building consensus and negotiations on the future global action on climate change, and high on the agenda is the need to seek agreement on an international treaty by the end of 2009, through the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen.

Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania otherwise known as ‘the roof of Africa’ stands to lose its beautiful ice-cap unless deliberate efforts are taken to save this leading tourist attraction site in East Africa.

Standing freely and majestically with its snow gleaming in the sun, Mount Kilimanjaro is in great danger to lose its eye-catching glaciers in few years to come due to global warming and an increase in human activities on its slopes.

Located some 330 kilometers south of the Equator, Mt. Kilimanjaro, an awesome and magnificent mountain, is the highest mountain in Africa and one of the leading single free standing mountain in the world. It composed of three independent peaks–Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira and covers a total area of 4,000 square kilometers.

The snow-capped Kibo with permanent glaciers covering its entire peak is the highest at 5,895 meters high is the most tourist attracting natural sight, and the most explored and known by many visitors.

The mountain was formed some 750,000 years and the present features were completely formed in the past 500,000 years after a number of upheavals and tremors which also caused the formation of 250 volcanic hills and crater lakes including the magnificent Lake Chala on its slopes.

International agreements on climate change initiatives would be the possible option in saving Africa’s natural heritage including the continent’s highest peak of Kilimanjaro, experts said.

Mount Kilimanjaro prominence had attracted several tourist companies, non-government groups, government departments and individuals to label their businesses, services or activities with the name of Kilimanjaro reflecting its snows.

Tanzania Tourist Board, Tanzania’s official public tourism marketing and development institution, has been marketing Tanzania as a tourist destination under the brand mark of Kilimanjaro.

“Successful tourism marketing campaigns could prove a difficult job if Mount Kilimanjaro lose its whitish top cover,” one tourist marketing executive said.

The snow on the peak has been the most attraction selling the mountain’s name to the climbing and non-climbing tourists including the short-time visitors wishing just to admire the mountain’s natural beauty.

Mount Kilimanjaro attracts between 25,000 and 40,000 foreign and local tourists per year and sustain livelihood activities to about four million people in Tanzania and Kenya through agricultural and business undertakings.

African tourism and natural tourist heritages are facing imminent threat to lose their glory due to climate changes that has been taking an alarming pace in drying up water sources among other effects, environmental experts warned.

Taking the East Africa as a case study, United Nations (UN) environmental experts said that tourist sites are among the world’s cultural and nature-based heritage sites that climate change threatens with destruction.

East African mountains of Ruwenzori and Elgon in Uganda with a section of other mountain ranges in the region are losing their ecological heritage at an alarming rate due to global warming, posing grate dangers to the regional economies.

Tourism stands the East Africa’s regional economic sector highly affected with climate changes. Wildlife parks and mountain related heritages make up over 90 per cent of East Africa’s tourist resources.

Mr. Taranco said the Secretary General was also interested in understanding Tanzania’ progress and challenges in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and part of his Africa visit is to mobilize political will, and to hold leaders to their commitment to allocate adequate resources and development aid to reaching the MDGs.

Tanzania will host the next conference on Global Initiative on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change planned for September this year.