It is without a doubt that Zimbabwe is endowed with the most beautiful, breathtaking sites. This has made tourism one of the outstanding forex generating industry. From the mountainous Eastern Highlands to the Save and Zambezi valleys, we find the Inyangani mountain (the highest mountain peel in Zimbabwe), the Troutberg fisheries, the Mtarazi and Nyangombe waterfall, the Chirinda Forest in Chipinge, the beautiful Gonarezhou (the home of elephants), the Chilojo cliffs and the mighty Victoria Falls, just to mention but a few. Most of the tourism sites in Zimbabwe have become attraction centres with international recognition as “must visit” tourism destination sites.
The tourist destinations spread across the nation are however facing a great threat that has befallen the industry, Climate change! It leaves one to ponder on what will become of the breathtaking scenery if climate change continues to affect them.
What is climate change?
Climate change refers to a long-term shift in atmospheric and weather patterns, which redefine the global or regional climates.
Causes of climate change?
The following human activities are the major causes of climate change:
- Burning of fossil fuels: Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon, and releases a lot of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas when burnt. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps radiant heat, resulting in a global temperature rise, which leads to climate change.
- Deforestation: Large-scale utilization of forests for agricultural land, firewood and timber results in less carbon dioxide being absorbed by plants, land degradation, desertification and changes in the ecosystem. The ultimate result is climate change.
The following natural activities also contribute to climate change
- Orbital changes of the earth
- Ocean currents and
- Solar variations.
Effects of climate change
- Mean annual temperature rise (Extreme temperatures/ heat waves).
- Melting of glaciers and thawing of permafrost.
- Excessive rains, as with Cyclones, Hurricanes, Typhoons and so on.
- Flooding because of melting ice or heavy rains on bare ground.
- The rise in sea level.
- Extinction of plant and animal species because of failure to adapt to new habitats.
- Migration of animals to better habitats.
- Prevalence of natural disasters.
Effects of climate change on tourism in Zimbabwe
- Veld fires risk: extreme heat waves cause unpredictable veld fires in grasslands and forests, leading to the destruction of beautiful flora and fauna. For those who are adventurous, beautiful scenery that gives a refreshing and calm atmosphere to relax is what makes them travel. The absence of such refreshing and beautiful scenery impact tourism negatively.
- Extinction of flora and fauna: as with humans, plants and animals require a specific temperature for them to nourish and grow. Global warming and its effects are likely to affect the desired living conditions for most plants and animals leading to deaths and or migration. Zimbabwe has rich flora and fauna which include rare species (Pangolin, Porcupine, Aardvark…), Endangered species (Bersama synnetonii, wild dog, Bread palm…), and the big 5 wildlife (lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard) which is one of the major centres of tourist attraction. If climate change takes its toll, one may wonder what will become of the conservation areas such as the Gonarezhou and the Hwange national park.
- Drying up of water bodies- In Zimbabwe, there are glorious natural wonders such as the might Victoria falls and the Mtarazi falls. Victoria falls is one of the seven wonders of the world with irresistible waterfalls sceneries. The wonders of water transform such areas into the best tourist attraction centres. If the water bodies dry up, the sites will become unpopular. The drying up of wetlands is one of the major concern in environmental policies. Lake Kariba experienced low water levels, which affected not only tourism but a host of other activities such as electricity generation, night boating and fishing.
- Build up of severe weather systems- Constant occurrence of cyclones especially in Africa is becoming a norm because of changes in the weather patterns. For instance, the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani is a good example of how climate change should be a serious concern. One of the tourist centres, the Bridal Falls, was destroyed as floods and landslides gulped the land down. These severe weather systems not only become a danger to local people but also affect tourism.
How to combat climate change
- Conduct massive education to increase awareness.
- Using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, instead of non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels.
- Buy energy-efficient equipment.
- Use environment-friendly forms of transport such as bicycles, horses, or opt for public transport instead of private.
- Minimize deforestation and plant trees.
- Be conservative and consider repairing or recycle your assets/goods instead of burning or buying new ones unnecessarily.
Climate change impact tourism negatively, hence people should stop being ignorant of awareness being raised on the need to end climate change. There is a need for more campaigns and advocacy to inform and educate people about the noble cause to stop climate change.