Environmental experts and climate change researchers acquainted with the impact of the phenomenon have for some time now predicted, that the ice caps of East Africas mountains, on the Rwenzoris, Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro, would by 2025 have largely disappeared, then only collecting fresh snowfall insufficient to reverse the visible trends.
Over the last century the world famous ice cap on Mt. Kilimanjaro, immortalized by Hemingways novel The Snows of Kilimanjaro, have shrunk from over 12 square kilometres, reaching way down from the summit, to now just over 2 square kilometres, with the highest shrinkage observed over the past 3 decades, when the disappearance has become visible for all to see.
Alarms raised were for long ignored but when the icefields on Mt. Kenya equally shrunk to a small fraction of their former self, and the glaciers on the peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains too receded dramatically, notice was finally taken. The impact of less ice translates in less water emerging from the mountain and with the surrounding ecosystems, along the Albertine Graben in Uganda, the central highlands in Kenya and the area around Kilimanjaro all depending on sufficient water for irrigation of farms, domestic and industrial use, the outlook is critically uncertain now exactly how massive the impact of the shrunken ice caps will eventually be. In Kenya the situation in fact is even more critical, as much of the coasts water supply originates from the Mzima Springs in Tsavo West, from where a pipeline brings fresh water to the coast, a lifeline in the truest sense there.
Eyebrows were therefore raised last week when controversial tourism minister Ezekiel Maige once again put his foot into it when proclaiming in Arusha that the ice caps on Kilimanjaro would be there for much beyond the projected time frame, clearly thinking that his political utterances would stem and supersede natural developments. Said a regular source, well read and respected in the discussions on climate change in the wider East African region: Right now, the mountain often appears bare of snow the way we were used to seeing it. Then, after some days in the clouds and rain, snow is visible again, but no longer to the level it used to come down the slopes say 20 years ago. And the snow then melts more quickly, leading to the type of bare mountain sides now shown on recent pictures and films taken with the rocks all there is. It is the same situation on Mt. Kenya, where of the big glaciers there is now just a very small part left and it is just as bad on the Rwenzori peaks. So it is laughable when a minister tries to halt the trend by decree, it cannot be wished away any longer and it is best to prepare now for the consequences of this inevitable change than misleading the people and leaving them to face the fallout of climate change suddenly and without adequate preparation. But that is what the current breed of politicians does best, belittle the inevitable and tell people to hope beyond hope. In fact many of their development projects they are peddling as progress is going to make things worse with environmental degradation, and the logging projects they have for the Eastern Arc Mountains, where they withdrew the UNESCO application for recognition as a World Heritage Site speaks volumes of what is coming our way if they have their way. Climate change is now a reality and the failure of the talks in Durban is telling the world to be ready for the worst now.