Coastal erosion threatens the two most important economies in Senegal: tourism and fishing.

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)

Rovsk, Senegal, (sudanow.info.sd) - "I was a teenager, when water began in 1991, to eat up the coast of our village; we used to watch a day by day the area of ??the village shrinking constantly. At that time, we could not realize the scale of the tragedy. However today, the situation is much worse, and violent waves are still threatening us despite the walls of protection that surround the village," Babiker Inja says.

Babiker, in his late 30's, lives in Rovsk city on the Atlantic Ocean coast, 25 kilometers to the north of the Senegalese capital Dakar. Rovsk is one of the areas in Senegal worst exposed to the disaster of erosion or coastal drift by the powerful water, according to the Ministry of Environment here.

Rocky Walls

Babiker recalls that the city was previously extended up to three kilometers into the sea, but this area with its different buildings had been submerged with floodwaters. The inhabitants were forced to move far away. The government erected a rocky wall around the village to protect the residents but still water during the rainy season rises up to the new borders of the city.

“The city no longer has a beach as before, we have to walk to a long distance until we see the beach, there is no more a lot of fish and the fishermen have to stay at sea for days to collect their needs or otherwise hunting in areas very far from the village." Babiker adds.

Rovsk relies entirely on fishing. The fresh fish is transported to the city of Dakar or to other nearby cities in Senegal. Some fish is dried and made as fodder for the animals for consumption within or outside the village.

Assistant to the Coordinator of the project to protect the beach, Aida Goya, says the Rovsk disaster has started slowly and that they were helpless towards it. "Then it developed rapidly and threatened the lives of a thousand families who live there, prompting the government to bring in huge rocks from the southern coasts and built a strong wall to protect the city." Said Aida.

Serious erosion

Water and forest expert, Engineer Dasde Somare Nadia, who is a member of the Supervisory Commission on the Ecosystem says “We were surprised by the rapid phenomenon of erosion of the beaches in Senegal as the rate of degradation was so serious in some areas, and dangerous in others. It reached several kilometers in the northern coast in just ten years time.”

“One of the solutions to deal with this problem is the continuation of backing up the beach with sand to rebuild them. But this solution is not usually effective because of the magnitude of decline. Erosion has become huge and at great rates reaching several meters in a short time. For example, the hotel where the Senegalese football team, which participated in the World Cup year 2002, was staying does not exist any longer. It has just disappeared because of this accelerated decline. There are no longer any beaches in the area today.” Nadia added.

Agriculture is the main activity in the Senegalese economy, especially peanut cultivation, but the exposure to repeated waves of drought has led to a sharp downturn in the economy of the country. This has reflected on the balance of payments, on the trade, and to a decline in the general revenues of the state. However, Senegal has been able to recover from this recession by1995.

According to the World Bank, Senegal's economic in the second half of the nineties of the past century was negatively affected due to the global financial crisis. The big rise in the food and energy prices during 2007-2008, lead to a reduced growth in the GDP, keeping it at an average of 2.7 during the years 2008-2009. Senegal economy was able to recover in the year 2010 and to achieve a growth rate of 4.5%, thanks to recovery in the construction and services sectors. However, sustained growth may not be achieved completely, given the decline in the tourism sector.

The Senegalese coast extends for five thousand kilometers. Sands cove the northern beaches while rocks are the main features in the south. Fishing is one of the most important economic activities in the country, along with tourism. Both are wholly dependent on the coast. Any problem the coast might face shows its impact on the two beach-related activities, according to Engineer Dasde.

The climate change is an important and essential cause behind the current tragedy, he says, where melting ice and sea level rise cause intensifies erosion or depletion of the beaches in northern Senegal, as well as urban creep over these beaches, especially by the tourism sector, by both government and private sectors.

In Rovsk, the solution that was adopted, has led to the creation of other environmental problems. Here residents resorted to dumping rubbles and wastes onto the rocky hills that protect them, a matter that led to its accumulation in huge and hazardous quantities blocking the smooth flow of the sewage into the seabed.

According to the Coordinator of Protection Project, these wastes cause another disaster as it would not be possible to move them to other locations because of the lack of means of transportation and the lack of a waste dumping area in the city. These wastes are hazardous, though no diseases or epidemics were linked to them. They remain potential sources of risk in the very near future.

Global Warming

Coasts erosion is a result of the loss of part of the beaches. This happens when high water levels that sometimes occurs because of melting of a huge block of ice or heavy rains and strong waves and earthquakes, lead to the destruction of parts of the beaches.

Climatologists and environmentalists are of the view that global warming is primarily responsible for this disaster and does not only cause a rise in the level of the sea water, but also an increase in the intensity of storms that erode break the consistency of the  sands and erode the beach.

In Africa, the majority of countries suffer from this problem. A Conference known as, the Alexandria Dialogue discussed this phenomenon. It warned that large parts of the city and its beaches were in danger due to the erosion of the beaches. They warned that this would affect the future of the Suez Canal and the Nile Delta, the lifeline of the Egyptian economy. Nigeria is also facing the same problem where recently protests were staged against the poor conditions there. Numerous other African countries have seen the same reaction.

There was a general agreement that the problem is very serious and that perhaps the solution lies in adopting legislations to combat the construction on the beaches and to take significant measures to improve the management of these beaches, according to Engineer Dasde.

Global Protection

A strong alliance of governments, international organizations and civil society organization groups and private sector organizations began in Singapore on 24 February, to work together under the banner of a global partnership for the oceans to address some of the problems of over-fishing and degradation of marine life and the loss of natural habitats.

In a speech at the World Oceans Summit, organized by the Economist magazine in Singapore, World Bank President, Robert Zoellick said this partnership would bring together scientific bodies and advocate for the safety of the oceans as well as the private sector and international public institutions to advance the goals agreed upon in order to maintain the protectionof the oceans.

The world's oceans are in danger, and the enormity of the challenge is bigger than one country or organization," said Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, one of the new coalition's partners.

"We need coordinated global action to restore our oceans to health.  Together we'll build on the excellent work already being done to address the threats to oceans, identify workable solutions, and scale them up."

It is worth mentioning that oceans cover 71% of the planet and are essential for providing food, jobs, livelihoods, and protection for hundreds of millions of people. The Global Partnership for Oceans is an alliance of governments, international groups, civil society groups and private interests. Many small island developing states have called for Rio+20 to support sustainable ocean development.

The key step is to mobilize around a set of shared goals. This focus will help coordinate activities and mobilize new financial support, working closely with countries, civil society, and the private sector to reverse patterns of degradation and depletion.

Further discussions will help define the new partnership’s specific agenda. These discussions will address improved governance systems around fishing, marine protected areas, intensified efforts to attack the sources of ocean pollution and degradation as well as improved coastal management for resilience to weather and climate-related threats.

Heading into the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June, ocean health is a key issue. The Global Partnership for Oceans will assist with implementation by supporting countries meeting commitments for improved ocean management.

“Brazil is committed to achieving specific results in conservation and sustainable development of oceans and hopes that Rio+20 will allow all countries to renew commitments made in 1992 with specific new commitments,” said Mr. Francisco Gaetani, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment of Brazil.



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