To protect the coast, the authorities are laying dikes along the beach. Effective solutions in the short term, but will not rebalance the ecosystem.
The road to Elmina on the coast of Ghana looks like a postcard landscape: the sea, coconut trees, and the pale and huge outline of the Saint George’s Fort del Rei mine in the background are a must-visit for tourists Attractions. But this pastoral scenery masks a potential threat: Year after year, the ocean cannibalize the coastline. The white sandy beaches have disappeared under the rock dikes, which are used to prevent the waves from licking the road.
“The locals remember when you had to walk to reach the sea”, Complained to Donatus Angnuureng, a researcher at Cape Coast University (the nearby town of Elmina) and one of the members of the Africa Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence: “Today, just turn the steering wheel. We are in the water. However, please check out all these sites under construction!” On the beach reduced to a minimum, the wooden skeleton of the future tourist complex is erected a few meters from the water. The short-term investment warned geographers: the ocean will soon overcome the fragile buildings.
Donatus Angnuureng estimates that under the influence of soil erosion, the ocean increases by one to two meters per year, and in some places, such as Dzita on the east coast, it can reach as high as 17 meters. “The entire coast of Ghana is receiving attention: on the western edge, in the central region, in the large eastern region”, He concluded. This phenomenon is changing rapidly: Researchers report that in the eastern part of the Vlta River, the coastline is receding at a rate of eight meters per year, compared to only two years ago. The Fuvemeh fishing village near the town of Keta has become a landmark case. The waves swallowed its 80 houses, plantations and schools, forcing residents to take refuge in neighboring areas.
Kwasi Addo Appeaning, director of the Institute of Environmental Research and Health of the University of Ghana, said that this is partly the price paid for the economic boom of Ghana in the past decade. : “Erosion is an ancient and natural phenomenon. This becomes a problem when human activities are involved. “ Ghana’s 550-kilometer coastline concentrates a quarter of the population and 80% of industrial activities: port operations, hydrocarbon production, hydroelectric power… In 1965, the huge Akosombo dam was built on Lake Vlta. Sediment input from the east coast has caused insufficient sand on the surrounding beaches.
In the case of Elmina, everything suddenly got worse after the gold rush in 2011, when hundreds of illegal miners came to the shore looking for precious ore. Kwasi Addo said: “Galamsey [exploitation minière illégale à petite échelle] Upset the fragile balance of the coast. In just a few months, erosion has become Elmina’s main concern. “
Another illegal trade has worsened the coast of Ghana: sand mining. It was obtained illegally from the beach and sold directly to a construction company. An informal approach, but its author is rarely worried by the authorities. Reporter Prosper Agbenyega revealed in March that 40 trucks loaded with Ghana are shuttled between the border town of Aflao and neighboring Togo. On a smaller scale, it is not uncommon to encounter a man or teenager when the last piece of sand is encountered on the beach in Elmina. Then, a heavy bucket of silt sold for a few pennies in the nearby yard.
All these human activities have exacerbated the rise in water levels associated with global warming, and the rise may be substantial. “At present, the sea level is rising at a rate of 3 millimeters per year, but the curve is exponential. Warn Donatus Angnuureng. It is estimated that this increase will reach 1 meter by 2100. If we allow this to happen, the low-lying coastal areas, especially the eastern coastal areas, will be completely submerged. We will lose land, fields, villages, and a lot of infrastructure. All coastal communities will be affected, mainly fishing communities. “
Because if the coast is the economic center of Ghana, it is also due to its ports. Fishing accounts for 1.1% of GDP and provides livelihoods for 2.4 million people. In Elmina, the boats moored at the foot of the fortress and their variegated hulls are the best choice for amateur photographers. But in the fishing community, people are worried about the future. “People are aware of the problem and must find a solution through the means at hand”, Emphasize Donatus Angnuureng. Most coastal communities choose to stay near the ocean, but are increasingly inclined to temporary accommodation. The sturdy buildings have been replaced by sheds that have been erected in a hurry, and are destined to be washed away by the waves in a few months.
“In the absence of a structured plan, the community is adapting every day, Please read Kwasi Addo Appeaning. And when the situation no longer lasted, such as in Fuweme, they moved to a nearby place. “ The researcher said that he has observed some migratory movements from the coast to the interior: In short, our first batch of climate immigrants. “
Aware of the seriousness of this phenomenon, the government has made marine and coastal degradation a priority in its environmental policy. Daniel Agyei, who has been sailing the Cape Town coast for the past 15 years, said that when Elmina fishermen asked the authorities to protect the coastline in 2015, they responded quickly. “The state laid boulders on the beaches to make dams and piers. Since then, the ocean no longer destroys our homes!”
These “sea defenses”-the official names of these devices-now cover the five kilometers of coastline between the Cape Coast and Elmina; they cost the government nearly 60 million euros. Although they can effectively fight erosion, they have caused other problems for local communities. “Our ships have become more difficult to maneuver near the coast, Daniel Agyei pointed out. If you encounter an accident at sea, you must be able to make an emergency stop. Now this is no longer possible: you have to work hard to reach the sandy cove between the rocks. “
In addition, the marine defense system also hinders the flow of sediment. “The sea brings sand to the mouth of the river, and the sand is trapped by the rocks”, Explained in detail Kofi Susu, the chief fisherman representative of Elmina: Result: The estuary gradually blocked and the entrance became shallow. At low tide, our ship will no longer pass. “
“Heavy engineering structures are a relatively effective response measure that can protect the coast from erosion in the short and short term., Nuances Donatus Angnuureng. However, unless you install dikes along the entire coastline, you will only transfer the problem to nearby beaches. “ Ghana has used this solution extensively since the launch of the maritime defense project in Keta in the eastern part of the country in 2001. For two decades, the country has been committed to protecting approximately one hundred kilometers of coastline, and this initiative is generally welcomed by local communities. On March 31, the residents of Salakope in the Volta region even blocked the road to the authorities, demanding the construction of breakwaters to prevent waves from sweeping their villages.
“The problem is this, Interrogate Kwasi Addo Appeaning. Should we continue to rely solely on heavy engineering, or should we eventually find more sustainable alternatives to adapt to this situation? “ Researchers invite the authorities to take an approach “Soft”, More respect for the environment. “It’s not enough to just lay a dike, He hammered. It is also necessary to increase the sensitivity of residents, stop destructive practices in coastal areas, and rebalance ecosystems. We must replant mangroves and coconut trees, and establish marine protected areas as much as possible. “