West African governments take action

Two weeks ago in Banjul, a sea level change adaptation project involving five countries – The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal – was launched in Banjul.

The goal of this project is to develop and pilot a range of effective coping mechanisms for reducing the impact of climate change induced by coastal erosion in vulnerable regions in the five participating countries. Acquired and implemented by the National Environment Agency (NEA), the adaptation to Climate Change and Coastal (ACCC) project is funded through the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Banjul’s Daily Observer gives a full outline of some of the challenges facing Gambia in the face of rising sea levels:

In his launching statement, Nyada Yorro Baldeh, permanent secretary, deputising for the secretary of state for Forestry and Environment, said that ‘The Gambia’s coastline is generally low-lying with Banjul projected to sink with a mere 1m rise in sea level. The destruction of infrastructure aside, numerous livelihoods and economic activities will be lost, further entrenching poverty and seriously weakening the national economy. “We are already facing serious coastal erosion problems, which could very well be attributed to climate change. These indications are indeed causes for concern that require concerted efforts by government, its institutional partners and individuals”, he said.

Dr Almamy Camara of UNDP stated that in Africa, including The Gambia, climate change is already having profound and irreversible impacts on economic, social and environmental systems. “This is increasingly becoming apparent from the prevalence of and intensity in the occurrence of natural imbalances and climate related disasters on the continent, including recurrent droughts, floods, erratic rainfalls and other similar extreme weather events that threaten human health and infrastructure, agricultural production and food security, water, land and biodiversity, all of which are key to human survival and economic development.

UNDP, he continued, is aware of the fact that The Gambia’s coastal area is a highly productive ecosystem of significant marine biodiversity which underpins a significant portion of livelihood opportunities of the coastal communities. However, he said, with its low-lying coast, The Gambia is vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as coastal erosion which is one of the most serious environmental problems facing the country.

Further to this, there are vital disparities in the adaptive capacities of communities within Gambia to react to these changes:

The destruction of human infrastructure and the destabilisation of rich ecosystem from high sea level rise could be very significant, and could result in serious damage. “This could cause loss of livelihoods of coastal vulnerable groups from Benin, Senegal, The Gambia to Guinea Bissau”, he said. Accoring to him, what is certain, however, is that these negative impacts of climate change will be felt more severely by poor communities, those with least adaptive capacity due to their lack of financial and technical resources.

He noted that they suffer most from the impacts of climate change as they are often directly dependent on the natural environment and coastal ecosystem for their survival along side the limited possibilities at their disposal of switching to alternative sources of income. For her part, Professor Sabelle Niang, regional project coordinator, said that the project is a crucial one and that people need to act and contribute to its successes.

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