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Climate change hits Uganda 2007-04-07 16:36:22
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    KAMPALA, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Climate experts have warned that global warming will cause faster and wider damage than previously forecast, ranging from failing crops and hunger in Africa to species extinction and rising sea levels.

    According to the first ever government assessment, quoted by state-owned New Vision on Saturday, climate change has also started hitting Uganda and the impact is dramatic.

    Temperature rise resulted in an increase in infectious diseases. Malaria increased throughout the country but has reached "epidemic proportions" in southwest Uganda, where temperatures have risen by 0.3 degrees in a decade, according to the report.

    The highlands, which were malaria free, are now invaded by the disease. People living in highlands have not developed immunity for malaria and are therefore more susceptible to it.

    The report noted an increase in malaria cases of 43 percent in Ntungamo, 51 percent in Kabale and 135 percent in Mbarara.

    In the semi-arid areas, tick-borne diseases have become rampant because of higher temperatures. The tsetse fly belt has expanded, while meningitis and eye infections have increased.

    "Severe droughts resulted in frequent dust storms and associated respiratory and eye infections in low lying areas," it said.

    The report, titled "Climate Change, Uganda National Adaptation Programs of Action", was compiled by a team of 33 experts of the ministries of health, agriculture, wildlife and environment led by Philip Gwage, assistant commissioner in charge of meteorology. It predicted that some African nations might have to spend five to ten percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on adapting to climate change.

    It said that frequent droughts have resulted in lowering of the water table, leading to drying of boreholes, with the rural poor and the cattle corridor most affected. Rains are decreasing in amount, yet they fall in concentrated heavy showers and storms, leading to floods in lowlands and landslides in highlands.

    Meanwhile, increased temperatures affect agricultural crops like coffee, cassava and soya and lead to the emergency of new pests.

    The ice caps on Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda have receded to 40 percent of their 1955 recorded cover and are set to disappear within the next two decades, affecting wildlife species and increasing the erosive power of River Semliki.

    The warming of mountainous areas will also drastically affect wildlife species. The Mountain Gorilla is under threat. Equally endangered are the Rwenzori leopard and the Rwenzori Red Duiker, which usually live at altitudes above 3,000 meters, corresponding with colder climates.

    "Unique species of chameleon are also found on the mountains, including the three-horned chameleon, whose range is shifting upwards as a result of rising temperatures," according to the report.

    The dwindling of wildlife will certainly affect tourism. Wildlife-based tourism was recorded in 2004 for the first time as the country's leading foreign exchange earner, bringing in 300 million U.S. dollars.

Editor: Gao Ying
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