The islands off the Tanzania mainland coast could be submerged by the ocean by 2100 following a catastrophic rise in sea-level caused by the melting of polar ice, said scientists meeting in Arusha during the Africa Regional Conference for launching the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE)
The International Year of Planet Earth is a joint initiative by UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). Twelve Founding Partners, 26 Associate Partners and a growing number of International Partner organisations from all continents and representing all major geoscientific communities in the world, have embarked on this initiative. The Year also enjoys the full political support of 191 UN countries.
The findings of the meeting mean that Tanzania could be among the countries that may be hardest hit by climate change, a phenomenon associated with global warming due to increased emissions of greenhouse gases.
Islands known to have been submerged include Maziwi, near Pangani in Tanga Region, and Fungu la Nyani, on the Rufiji River estuary.
Other threatened sites are Ras Nungwi, at the northern tip of Zanzibar island, which has lost almost 100 metres of its beach to sea water, and Bongoyo and Mbudya islands near Dar- es- Salaam.
Experts from the Zanzibar-based Institute of Marine Sciences of the University of Dar- es- Salaam said the rising sea level posed a grave danger to the economy of Zanzibar and coastal areas of the mainland.
The experts meeting in Arusha were of the opinion that only “bold measures” could save Zanzibar and Mafia islands, which are among the leading tourist sites in the country.
The evidence that the icecap on Mt Kilimanjaro is receding is enough indication that climate change is impacting on the country’s natural resource base.
Scientists say the icecap volume on Africa’s highest mountain has dropped by 80 per cent in the last 100 years; from 12.1 square kilometres in 1901 to only 2.2 square kilometres in 2000.
Some scientists have predicted that the mountain may lose all its ice in 20 years’ time given the rate at which it is depreciating.