01 Jan 1970 Actualités Green economy

Reforesting Africa's highest mountain could halt severe water shortages

  • Rivers begin to dry up as the loss of Mt Kilimanjaro’s forests triggers water crisis
  • Climate change has destroyed 13,000 hectares of the mountain’s forests since 1976 – equivalent to cutting off a year’s supply of drinking water for 1 million people
  • East Africa’s glaciers expected to disappear within a few decades

19 October 2016 – Reforesting Africa’s highest mountain could help protect vital water supplies that are under threat across large parts of East Africa, according to a UN Environment report that looks at the impact of climate change on the region’s mountains.

Mt Kilimanjaro’s forests are a vital source of water for the surrounding towns and the wider region. Water from the mountain feeds one of Tanzania’s largest rivers, the Pangani, providing food, fuel and building materials to much of East Africa.

But higher temperatures as a result of climate change have increased the number of wildfires on the mountain. These fires have destroyed 13,000 hectares of forest since 1976. Because there are now fewer trees to trap water from clouds, the annual amount of dew on the mountain is believed to have fallen by 25%. This drastic decline is equivalent to losing enough drinking water to supply 1 million people every year. 

The Sustainable Mountain Development in East Africa in a Changing Climate report, produced by UN Environment, GRID-Arendal, East African Community, the Albertine Rift Conservation Society and Nature-RIDD, was launched at the World Mountain Forum in Uganda today.

It urges Tanzania to protect Mt Kilimanjaro’s water catchment area by reforesting the mountain,  investing in early warning systems and making climate adaptation a top priority.

Protecting East Africa’s mountain ecosystems will also help safeguard the region’s vital tourism industry, which is worth $7 billion to East Africa. Mt Kilimanjaro, for example, contributes over one third of Tanzania’s total revenue from tourism.

To read the full press release please click here.