April 10, 2018 | Resource degradation

The West African coastal zone is subject to erosion and the resulting inland movement is reducing the already limited arable land. This sea-level rise along the coastal zone is bound to have a series of negative ramifications. In West Africa, coastal zones are core contributors to the GDP vis-à-vis tourism, fishing, and other economic activities. These coastal zones are however being eroded by a rise of the sea- levels.

The imminent devastation arising out of the erosion of the coastal zone begs the question why this is happening? There have been a lot of debate on the causatives of sea-level rises. Consensus has however been drawn on the linkages between manmade behavior and erosion of arable lands. Emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide have accelerated the warming of the earth’s surface. The warmer earth has resulted in melting of ice sheets and thus the increase in seawater. Global warming is projected to increase based on man-made actions. Consequently, the levels in the sea are rising thus eroding the arable land.

But, what are the effects of the rising sea-levels particularly to West Africans that live in the coastal region?

Loss of Infrastructure and Livelihoods:

Coastal economic activities have ensured that a large proportion of the population living in the Coastal zones of West Africa. An erosion of these zones is thus a threat to their source of livelihoods. In Lagos, a rising sea level has had ramifications on available arable land as coastal residents are forced to move inwards exerting additional pressure on the available arable land.

Rising sea levels have also led to the loss of infrastructure along the West African coastal zone. Infrastructure constructed in the twentieth century has either been destroyed by the sea or is at risk of being flooded. Loss of infrastructure also necessitates replacement and this further aggravates the economic depravity of the West African region. Rising sea levels have also affected agricultural activities such as flooding of rice fields in Guinea. This is an indication that coastal erosion is a harbinger of more negative outcomes such as escalation of food insecurity and loss of economic activities. 

Threat to Biodiversity:

The rising sea levels in West Africa has also heightened coastal vulnerability by threatening biodiversity. This is because coastal erosion worsens salinization. In Cameroon, for example, a huge tract of mangroves act as a wildlife habitat in addition to preventing flooding bt trapping sediments. The loss of mangroves would also result in negative consequences for economic activities such as fishing.