Geneva/Kampala/New York: A two-week expedition to Uganda’s “Doomed Glaciers of Africa” has revealed further disturbing impacts linked to climate change, including rapid ice melting and the threat of reduced access to water for the area’s inhabitants.
The expedition to western Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains was a collaborative effort between Pax Arctica, Makerere University’s Mountain Resource Centre, Green Cross International and the World Youth Parliament for Water. Its aim was to study Africa’s disappearing glaciers and raise awareness on the global water crisis. A final report is expected in coming months, but initial observations were disturbing.
“Normal melting caused by the dry season (June-August) has worsened,” said expedition leader Luc Hardy of Green Cross France et Territoires, and founder of Pax Arctica. “You can see how the glacier is sandwiched between warming at the top and warming at the bottom.”
Scientists have predicted the glaciers located in the Rwenzori Mountains, or Mountains of the Moon, may cease to exist in two decades, possibly as early as the mid-2020s. Studies have shown that from 1906 to 2003, the area covered by glaciers has reduced from 7.5 km2 to less than 1 km2 (a decline at a rate of 0.7 km2 per decade.) Receding glaciers have seen a reduction over time of water flow in the Nyamwamba River, leading to noticeable declines in hydroelectric power and reduced agricultural production. Research efforts to discover the impact of the disappearance of these glaciers are now critical.
Listen to Luc Hardy's interview with BBC
Mr. Hardy observed vivid signs of rapid melting, including hanging ladders set in place just a few years ago for scientists and mountaineers exploring the ice sheet that were shifting relative position; where there was once ice, there is now ‘void’.
Sheila Ruyondo, environmental advocate and Uganda’s youth representative to the World Youth Parliament for Water, joined the expedition, and said the glacier’s recession, and climate change in general, threatened surrounding communities.
“Climate change in the Rwenzori Mountain region will likely have different effects,” Ms. Ruyondo said. “With reduced access to water in rural areas, the distance women walk to get water from various water resources, like flowing rivers, lakes and wells, is increased. And there is no guarantee that this water is clean.”
“Furthermore, with less predictable water availability and more frequent and prolonged droughts, food security is affected, as rural farmers heavily depend on rain for their crops. With drought comes famine.”
Soil and plant samples taken from close to the glacier are being analyzed at Makerere University to provide researchers with clues on how the mountain ecosystem will respond, or even adapt, once the ice has disappeared, which, according to Mr. Hardy, seems highly likely in the near future.
“Human-kind’s inability to contain climate change, and its negative consequences, can be visibly seen in this part of Uganda,” reflected Mr. Hardy. “What is happening in the Rwenzori Mountains sheds light on the challenges we are facing globally from climate change and the world water crisis.”
Contacts for interviews:
• Pierre Deyries: firstname.lastname@example.org tel: +1 (203) 6250237
Green Cross International:
• Paul Garwood: email@example.com, tel: +41 (0) 797760454
Makerere University’s Mountain Resource Centre, Uganda:
• Bob Nakileza: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pax Arctica Initiative was created to promote awareness of the threats facing the Arctic regions, to convey a global message of peace and to support the introduction of new ecological regulations for the Arctic region. Luc Hardy is the leader of the Initiative, he is and adventurer, author, and member of the Explorers Club. He is president of Sagax, a US-based investment and management advisory firm.
More information: http://www.paxarctica.org/
About Makerere University’s Mountain Resource Centre
The Makerere University Mountain Research Centre collects information on mountain issues and brings together researchers that do work in mountain areas especially in Uganda but also on global issues. It is the focal point for mountain research, organising workshops, conferences, trainings on mountain issues and documenting mountain research.
More information: http://scothee.mak.ac.ug/index.php?q=geography
About Green Cross International
GCI was founded in 1993 by Nobel Peace Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev and is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization advocating and working globally to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through advocacy and local projects.
GCI is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, has offices in some 30 countries and local projects around the world.
The GCI Water for Life and Peace programme advocates for universal access to safe drinking water and the equitable and sustainable use of shared water resources.
More information: https://www.gcint.org/water-for-life-and-peace
About the World Youth Parliament for Water
The World Youth Parliament for Water is a network of young people acting for water. It is active in 71 countries, with a mission to advocate for youth participation in the water sector, and to implement concrete actions for water. It acts at all levels: from local communities, where it implements concrete actions and lays the foundations for universal access to water and sanitation, to the United Nations General Assembly, where it advocates for youth participation in the water sector.
More information: http://www.pmje-wypw.org/