Tanzania fights to put out fires on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro

Tanzania fights to put out fires on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro threatening the delicate ecosystem

As per the Tanzania National Parks Authority, the fire that recently engulfed the Kilimanjaro has done away with over 95.5 square km of vegetation, 5% of the total 1,700 Square Km area covered by the mountain.

TANAPA officials claim that the fire has been put out by firefighters who are on high alert and are deployed to man the mountainside should any unexpected eventualities arise. In a conversation with the media on Friday, Pascal Shelutete, the TANAPA spokesman gave an overview of the progress and containment efforts of the fire that began in Whona. 

Thus far hundreds of firefighters, volunteer students, and residents are involved in the effort to contain the blaze from the Kilimajaro. The level of communal concern and cooperation was phenomenal as citizens volunteered to preserve one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Annually, this East African tower attracts over 50,000 climbers. Fortunately for everyone, there has been no reported case of injury or loss of life. 

12 huts at the Horombo Tourist Camp by the mountainside were destroyed by the fire, including two outdoor toilets and solar power equipment. Tanzania made an urgent appeal for aircraft to help put out the fire - both helicopters and airplanes provided they have firefighting capabilities.

Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and a major attraction for tourists to Kenya and Tanzania. TAMPA shared updates on the developments on their Twitter handle. In a post on the 16th, they gave an affirmative report of having contained the flame following frantic efforts that kicked off after the fire outbreak on the 11th of October.

So far no one can figure out the fire’s origin or whether it can be traced to a person who used the route. However, some reports point to a rest stop for campers as the source. After which it could have been fueled by strong winds that easily burnt through the dry grass. This was along the Mandara and Horombo routes where campers make occasional stops. Videos and pictures have widely circulated on the internet of what was once forest and shrub burnt into embers. 

Kilimanjaro is earmarked as a UNESCO historical site resting 5,895 meters (19,443 feet) above sea level and takes the spot as the world’s highest free-standing volcanic mountain. UNESCO warns that increased human activity in the surrounding areas results in water and air pollution that could threaten the area ecosystem. Erica and Podocarpus trees are abundant on the mountain slopes and are vulnerable to fires. Some reports show a two-mile stretch of alpine as the worst affected area of the blaze.

Mount Kilimanjaro rests on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, a feat that has seen both countries benefit immensely from tourism. The Kenya Amboseli nearby is known for her vast number of elephants who are nourished by the water that originates from the mountain. As a country of 58 million, Tanzania relies heavily on Tourism and the country has made frantic efforts to draw travelers back. 

Mount Kilimanjaro is a major source of national pride. In December 1961 when the East African country gained independence, the county’s first African leader, Dr.Julius Nyerere sent a group of climbers to conquer the continent’s highest peak. The climbers planted a torch on the summit as an inspirational metaphor marking the birth of their nationhood. 

Ph: NYTimes