Arusha. Experts are rooting for modern fire fighting gear as the blaze on Mount Kilimanjaro raged for the fifth day yesterday.
“We have to invest in technology to contain such disasters. We simply don’t have the right equipment,” said Prof Jafari Kideghesho.
The rector of the Moshi-based College of African Wildlife Management (CAWM) Mweka regretted that the mountain vegetation was still burning.
“Fires on Kilimanjaro have been recurring now and then. Maybe we have not developed ways to stop them or contain them quickly,” he said.
The college recently dispatched its students, staff and vehicles to fight the blaze which erupted at a high altitude spot on the south eastern slopes.
Until 5pm yesterday, the Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa) had not issued a statement on the progress made in containing the inferno.
Tanapa conservation commissioner general Allan Kijazi said on Wednesday that by then the fire had been contained by between 85 to 90 percent.
He hinted given the pace of fire fighting involving nearly 500 people, the exercise was expected to be completed late yesterday (Thursday).
Mr Kijazi could not discuss reports of new fires when reached on the phone but promised to give updates later in the day.
Tanapa said on Wednesday that the blaze has burned at least 28-square kilometres of the semi arid vegetation cover on the mountain’s alpine zone.
Prof Kidegesho warned the fire on the 5,895-metre high ‘Roof of Africa’ should not be taken lightly due to ecological, geographical and economic damages.
He said besides the loss of the critical flora and fauna, the blaze will accelerate the melting of glaciers atop the mountain.
“The mountain would lose its shine and tourism value if bereft of the snow cap,” he said, suggesting regular patrols against fires.
He noted since Mount Kilimanjaro was on the list of Unesco World Heritage Sites, international support was needed to protect it against such calamities.
Mr Charles Bonaventura, an official of a conservation NGO based in Arusha, said the fire has raged for so long because the rescue teams are poorly equipped.
A French scientific expert currently visiting Tanzania, Prof Marc Dufumier, said given its role on Tanzania’s economy, Mount Kilimanjaro should be protected.
“I don’t know the situation on the mountain and don’t know what caused it (fire). But forest fires are devastating,” he said.
Other experts contend that the ‘isolated’ position of the mountain, the tallest free standing in the world, may have complicated matters
Mount Kilimanjaro is notorious for strong upslope winds, blowing from the south-eastern slopes,during the day time and downslope winds in the nights.