African Glaciers Disappearing

Rwenzori-Mt. Stanley

The Rwenzori Mountains which are described as, 'Mountains of the Moon' form a portion of the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the ice cap melt that is rapidly occurring due to global warming is simply part of the rapidly receding ice that is occurring on every continent on our planet now, and at a pace three times faster than the worst scenarios by scientists.

It is said that the Greek geographer Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD, described them as 'Mountains of the Moon' whose snows feed the lakes, sources of the Nile," which supposedly refers to the Rwenzori mountains that feed Lake Albert as it joins the Nile.

And now these 'Mountains of the Moon' are in danger of disappearing in two to three decades or sooner depending on the pace of melting ice. For me there is no more urgent an indication of global warming/climate change than ice cap melt, and it is alarming to me regarding the lack of water resources that will result from these glaciers melting.

But I now feel as though we are still stuck at an impasse as the world continues to melt around us and it is frustrating to say the least. While people in this country still argue over whether humans are even the cause of climate change, water resources for millions of people globally are being threatened, and I am coming to the conclusion that we have passed the tipping point regarding glacial melt in the interim.

It will now have to become incumbant upon us on a global basis to meet to institute measures that seek to conserve water through more effective CO2 mitigation techniques, irrigation methods, conservation, waste management, infrastructure upgrades, and looking to stem the tide of corporate control of resources that keep it from being equitably distributed to indigenous peoples, as well as stemming the penchant for dam building that destroys traditional homelands and wastes water causing floods that ruin agricultural land.

And it is not only the lack of water resources that is a concern in this. Many of these places hold spiritual significance to those who live in these areas and those who do not, and losing them is losing a piece of ourselves. We are sacrificing so much all for the sake of what we call progress. However, progress is not only measured monetarily, and now is the time we must find a balance in assessing value as well to the spiritual, moral, and ethical progress that goes hand in hand with monetary progress.

It saddens me to read articles like this because the world we once knew is becoming something that we could have prevented, and in many ways still can. But how close are we really coming to taking those steps? This isn't just about one political campaign. This is about all of us forming our own campaigns to save ourselves and taking it public. I think the people who are living this up close and personal globally are coming to that conclusion as well.
Uganda: Reduced Ice Cap On Mountain Rwenzori Irks Scientists
New Vision (Kampala)

8 August 2007
Posted to the web 9 August 2007

Gerald Tenywa

THE ice cap on Mountain Rwenzori has reduced from six square kilometres to less than one square kilometre in the last 100 years, according to researchers.

"Glaciers that covered six square kilometres in 1906 have reduced to 0.86 square kilometres," said professor Giorgio Vassena.

Scientists attribute the problem to global warming, adding that research was ongoing to analyse the cause of the drastic recession of the glaciers.

Speaking at a conference at the Italian embassy, Vassena added that the Italian government was working with partners like Makerere University, the Uganda Wildlife Authority and AVSI, an Italian non-governmental organisation, to improve the environment around the mountains.

The decision to conserve the mountain comes after the celebrations to mark 100 years of the first ascent to the Margherita peak on the mountain by the Italian Duke of the Abruzzi.

The festivities were held last year in the Rwenzoris and in Kampala.

The Italians have also installed high altitude meteorological stations. The first was installed at the Bujuku peak, over 4,000 metres on the mountain and the second close to Elena Hut, at the Stanley peak, over 4,600 metres on the mountain.

Vassena pointed out that two more stations would soon be installed to monitor the changes caused by climate change.

"This data is of great importance to understand the impact of global warming on Uganda and the Central Africa range," said Vassena.

Citing the current rains as part of the changes in weather, he called for more research to be conducted to encourage new crops that can benefit from the rains.

Professor Cecilia Pennacini from the University of Turin was concerned that measures to mitigate climate change, such as the protection of Mountain Rwenzori, had denied the locals access to some of the resources.

She, however, said the locals were compensated by the revenue sharing agreement with the wildlife authority and the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services.

The professors said the annual visitors, estimated at 500, should be increased to earn more revenue for better management of the mountain.

Also see:

Snowy Mountaintops in Africa to Disappear

By Bjorn Carey, LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 15 May 2006 03:35 pm ET

The picturesque snowy tops of equatorial mountains in Africa might disappear within two decades as air temperatures rise, scientists announced today.

The Rwenzori Mountains-also known as the "Mountains of the Moon"-straddle the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Uganda. They are renowned for their spectacular, and rare, plant and animal life. The mountains are home to one of the four remaining tropical ice fields outside of the Andes and are a popular tourist attraction.

The glaciers feed lakes that eventually flow into the Nile.

The glaciers were first surveyed a century ago when glacial cover over the entire range was estimated to be 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers). But recent field surveys and satellite mapping, conducted by the University College London, Uganda's Makerere University, and the Ugandan Water Resources Management Department, show that some glaciers are receding tens of yards each year.

Cut in half

The glacier area was cut in half from 1987 to 2003, and with just half a square mile (about one square kilometer) of glacier ice remaining. The researchers expect these glaciers to disappear within the next 20 years.

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