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UN project documents erosion on Africa’s coastlines, hopes to foster action

UN project documents erosion on Africa’s coastlines, hopes to foster action

With the coastline in parts of Africa receding rapidly, a new United Nations project aims to call attention to the problem and foster dialogue on solutions, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported today.

Eleven hard-hitting national reports on coastal erosion, slated for discussion at the World Summit on Sustainable Development when it opens next month in Johannesburg, were just made public, marking the end of the fact-finding phase of the project, implemented by UNESCO and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The reports aim to kick-start “a new phase of action-research,” according to UNESCO, which highlighted some of the documents’ alarming findings. The seafront of Grand-Bassam, the colonial capital of Côte d'Ivoire, is “in danger of crumbling into the water,” while sections of the Nigerian coastline are disappearing at a rate of 20 to 30 metres each year.

A number of the reports blame unsustainable development for the erosion. The report of Seychelles, which has 491 kilometres of coastline on its 455 square kilometres of territory, says “tourism is a primary cause of coastal erosion, mainly arising from attempts to cosmetically improve the beach and swimming areas, as well as the provision of marine facilities such as marinas and piers.” Although the Government has passed a wide range of laws to protect the environment, the report says “enforcement is often a major problem.”

The Gambia report tells a similar tale, noting that “the beach fronts of most of the hotels have been washed away.”

Patricio Bernal, Executive Secretary of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission , voiced concern about this trend. “The pressure to attract investment for coastal tourist facilities that bring much-needed new jobs and revenue to developing countries, for example, often ends up with projects that do not meet minimum standards of coastal protection,” he said. “This is frustrating, since the scientific and technical knowledge to prevent it are available and good practices have been clearly defined.”