Tourism-Related Impacts on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: Implications for Tourism Management on Mountain Ecosystems

Article excerpt

Introduction

An increasing quest for natural recreation opportunities in the recent years has led to a surge in visitor loads in protected areas worldwide (Hadwen et al., 2007) including in mountainous regions (Draper 2000; Walder 2000; Holden & Sparrowhawk 2002; Price 2004). Mountains present spectacular scenery and are rated second after coastal regions as popular tourist destinations worldwide (Walder 2000). However, they are also extremely sensitive to anthropogenic disturbances (UNEP 2007). Even the seemingly low-impact mountain-based activities such as nature walks, hiking and camping may adversely impact mountain ecosystems if not properly managed (e.g. Drapper 2000; Pickering et al., 2003; Pickering & Buckley 2003; Price 2004; Byers 2005; Pelletier 2006; Wohl 2006). Tourism related impacts in mountainous areas may be social, ecological, or economic (Mathieson & Wall 1982; Getz, 1983; Pearce 1995; UNEP 2007) but vary widely in severity due to a variety of factors (e.g. Cater 1987). In mountain ecosystems, ecological impacts such as soil erosion and compaction, introduction of exotic species, contamination of water, and indiscriminate solid waste and waste water disposal are frequently reported (Pickering et al. 2003; Pickering & Buckley 2003). Regardless of the nature, these impacts tend to increase with repeated use of the same destinations.

Given the above scenario, the relationship between tourism and the environment in mountain destinations is rarely compatible but often antagonistic. Many mountains suffer a variety of adverse tourism related impacts (Pickering et al., 2003 Pickering & Buckley 2003) while tourists prefer environmentally attractive destinations (Holden & Sparrowhawk 2002). This antagonism is often taken as the main argument against encouraging higher number of visitors on mountains. However, empirical data on tourism impacts remain scarce even for the most popular mountain destinations in the world. Availability of such information will greatly enhance tourism planning and management of these ecologically fragile mountain ecosystems.

This paper is a step towards providing such data. Tourism-related impacts on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, are explored, with a specific focus on biological contamination of natural water sources, waste disposal and trail erosion. Porter head loads are also surveyed to explore the possible social impact of Mountain Tourism.

Methods

Description of the study site

Mount Kilimanjaro (2[degrees] 45'-32[degrees]5S', 37[degrees]00'-37[degrees]43'E) is the highest in Africa and the world's largest free-standing. It is located about 330 km south of the Equator on the boundary of Kenya and Tanzania, comprising of one extinct (3,962m) and two (5,149 m & 5,895 m) dormant volcanic peaks. It is one of Africa's most scenic mountains and the view of its majestic, year-round snow-capped peak is recognized globally. It was established in 1972, accorded the status of a National Park and opened for visitation in 1977 and nominated a World Heritage Site in 1989. Since its opening, the Park has attracted an increasing number of tourists, for example from 6,100 in 1977 to 37,029 in 2004.

Biological contamination of water

From 2003-2005, 142 water samples were systematically collected from 25 permanently referenced water sources (springs, rivers, streams and ponds) across different altitudes and habitats on the mountain. These were analyzed for 19 chemical parameters and for biological (fecal and total colifoms) contamination using standard procedures (Clesceri et al., 1998). Samples were membrane filtered, subjected to 14-18 hours incubation and thoroughly examined for colifom infestation (Clesceri et al., 1998) but only fecal colifom contamination is reported here. Analysis of specific pathogenic microbes was not attempted but samples positive for fecal colifoms were considered not acceptable for human consumption. …