A UN Atlas revealed yesterday that the rate of deforestation in Africa is twice that of the worlds and that the few glaciers located on the continent are shrinking at an alarming rate.
Despite improvement in some areas, recent satellite images uncovered the growing impact of expanding cities, climate change, land clearance and pollution on the African environment. The growing concern of forest loss extends to 35 African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Nigeria and Rwanda.
A statement released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in the lead up to a meeting of African environment ministers in Johannesburg, declared that ‘Africa is losing more than 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of forest every year – twice the world’s average deforestation rate.’
It has been well-known for some time that the snows on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa’s highest peak at 5,895 meters (19,340 ft), are shrinking and Lake Chad is drying up, but the effects of climate change can now be seen, for example, on the Ugandan border with Democratic Republic of Congo, where the glaciers on the Rwenzori Mountains, with a highest peak of 5,109 metres, shrank by half from 1987 to 2003 – the Atlas revealed.
UNEP head Achim Steiner stated ‘The Atlas … clearly demonstrates the vulnerability of people in the region to forces often outside their control, including the shrinking of glaciers in Uganda and Tanzania and impacts on water supplies linked with climate change.’
The Atlas also highlighted current efforts across Africa against land degradation, including successful initiatives to prevent over-grazing in a national park in south-eastern Tunisia and another to help control flooding and improve livelihoods in Mauritania by expanding wetlands.
Plans to draw up a new UN treaty to combat climate change by the end of 2009 have been taken on by around 200 governments.