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Tanzania loses 80 percent of forest in Eastern Arc Mountains: report

DAR ES SALAAM, May 2 (Xinhua) -- World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the world's leading conservation organization, said on Sunday that Tanzania has lost about 80 percent of forests in the Eastern Arc Mountains.

"Current estimates showed that little more than 500,000 hectares of forests remain in the Eastern Arc Mountains," said the conservation organization in a report titled WWF Living Forests Report 2015--Saving Forests at Risk.

Geofrey Mwanjela, WWF Terrestrial Programme Coordinator for Coastal East Africa Global Initiative, said the implication of losing such huge hectares of forests will be huge.

The Eastern Arc Mountains were home to at least 100 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles of which many were threatened with extinction, said Mwanjela.

"As the report points out, with only 500,000 hectares of forests remaining, the pressures from unsustainable agriculture, unsustainable timber harvesting and uncontrolled fires will continue to pose challenges to what's remaining within Eastern Arc, " said Mwanjela.

Francis Sabuni, the Eastern Arc Mountains Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) Executive Director, said EAMCEF was implementing a five- year (2011-2016) project dubbed Improving Conservation of the Eastern Arc Mountains Forests of Tanzania under funding from the Norwegian government.

He said he was optimistic that the project will help to stop unsustainable harvesting of mountain resources.

The scheme is also supported by the Tanzanian government and its development partners, including the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme, said Sabuni.

"Most people living in surrounding rural areas depend heavily on subsistence agriculture and forests for their livelihoods. A growing population is also piling pressure on nature," he said.

The Eastern Arc Mountains are an isolated chain of geologically ancient mountains that comprise 13 forest blocks extending in an arc from southern Kenya to south-central Tanzania.

The Eastern Arc Mountains forests form major catchment areas which collectively provide water for most of the nation's coastal communities accounting for 25 percent of mainland Tanzania's population of over 45 million and most of the major industries in the country.

The report has been produced by WWF in collaboration with International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), an international research organization based in Austria.

WWF's Living Forests Report aims to catalyze debate on the future role and value of forests in a world where humanity is living within the Earth's ecological limits and sharing its resources equitably.

This report is calling for urgent actions and solutions, not only for East African forests but also globally.

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