There is need for efforts to save the disappearing glaciers on Rwenzori Mountains

The Rwenzururu Kingdom, a cultural institution with subjects cutting across the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, has called for concerted efforts to save the Rwenzori Mountains from losing its beauty, the glaciers. 

King Charles Wesley Mumbere is concerned that with the receding glaciers the people dwelling on the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains are headed for catastrophe, hence a call on his subjects to heed to a massive tree planting call.

“I am told the glaciers on Mt Rwenzori are disappearing. They are no longer visible everywhere. If the glaciers disappear completely, we may face water scarcity and the flowing rivers may dry” said King Mumbere.

King Mumbere is the traditional ruler of the Bakonzo in Uganda and the Nande in eastern DR Congo who are known as the Bayira tribe, part of the Bantu group that surrounds the Rwenzori Mountains.

The Rwenzori Mountains have had glaciers on three mountains for about the past 15,000 years. Though the mountain is a direct source of several major rivers like Mubuku, Nyamugasani, Nyamwamba and Semuliki that flow inside Uganda, the same glaciers are known as the source of the River Nile though it flows out of Lake Victoria at Jinja.

A report released last year by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) indicates that Africa’s rare glaciers located on Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and the Rwenzori Mountains are retreating at an increasing speed due to global warming. 

Scientists have attributed the rapid disappearance of the glaciers to global warming and they warn that Rwenzori Mountains may have no more glaciers by the year 2040.

The King who has not been in the kingdom since his arrest in November 2016 over alleged involvement in acts of treason, terrorisms, murder and aggravated robbery among others, wants his subjects to plant more trees on top of offering sacrifices.

The Bakonzo in their culture used to offer sacrifices to their god known as Kithasamba and the end result is believed to have been the protection of the mountain through control of disasters like landslides and floods.  

“The ridge leaders should revive the culture of traditional sacrifices. It is not satanic to make sacrifices because it is even biblical since the time of Abraham. We need to guard the pride of the Rwenzori Mountains through conservation” adds the King.

Owing to the high demand for charcoal in the growing urban centres in the Districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kabarole and the Fort Portal City, the Rwenzori Mountains which was forested has suffered deforestation. 

There is a clear boundary between the Mt Rwenzori National Park a conservation area on the mountain and the arable land where cultivation is practiced but there have been rampant invasions by the communities to fell trees for charcoal.

Often referred to as the “African Alps” or the Mountain of the Moon as named by British Explorer, Stanley, has been a key tourist attraction with the people traveling from all over the world to trek to the snow capped Margarita Peak, standing at 5,109m above the sea level.

The Rwenzori Mountains have lost up to 90 percent of their mass during the past decades, according to the report by WMO. 

“During 2020, the climate indicators in Africa were characterized by continued warming temperatures, accelerating sea-level rise, extreme weather and climate events, such as floods, landslides and droughts, and associated devastating impacts. The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system,” said WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.

Zephaniah Bwambale Kameli, a Young African Business and Civil Engagement Leader based in Kasese says that there is a need for massive awareness crusades where appropriate knowledge about the glaciers and how to save them can be shared. 

Kameli during an interview with The Outlook Africa said that the local people who used to sport glaciers at both sunrise and sunset but have not been getting the same experience in recent years are not aware of the solutions. 

He said that much as glaciers are disappearing in many places around the world, Rwenzori Mountains are vulnerable because the glaciers melt down due to the rising temperatures hence leading to likelihood of floods.

“The challenge will be solved by promoting a shared sustainable development vision and also ensuring that there is local adaptation with the communities being equipped with information such as advice to farmers on crop diversification and choice of agricultural practices under changing climatic conditions” said Kameli.

Kameli is not alone in pleading for possible measures to save the remaining glaciers from melting down because recent disasters have sounded enough warning to everyone.

Moses Kule, a resident of Kilembe sub-county says that the floods that have resulted from the main rivers bursting their banks in the past 9 years are the most worrying situation he has witnessed in his 60 years.

“The way the rivers are becoming a problem killing people, displacing hundreds more and also destroying infrastructure means that we are headed for more trouble as a community of Kasese. I concur with those who blame the disappearance of glaciers on our negligence where no one respects nature anymore” he said.

Since 2013, it has almost become an annual phenomenon for the river in Kasese District to burst their banks wrecking havoc to the communities downstream.  Studies have shown that such floods are as a result of landslides occurring deep in the mountain ranges forcing the rivers to flood.

Recently, Kasese District lost 16 people when a heavy downpour resulted in the flooding of Kasika Trading Centre in Rukoki Sub-county. The same week, Bundibugyo District has been battling floods, all attributed to human activities that have led to climate change.

One thought on “There is need for efforts to save the disappearing glaciers on Rwenzori Mountains

  1. This is a true story. As a young person from the Rwenzori Mountains, I am concerned about the falling volumes of glaciers at my motherland and habitant for our spiritual ancestors. Thank you Outlook Africa for the story.

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