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Event Details

Sea-level Rise event report

Category: Sea-level Rise
Observation: 02.09.2008
Continent: Africa
Country: Benin
State: Littoral
Area: Capital City
Location: Cotonou area
Severity: Hight
Event details
Rising sea levels have destroyed hundreds of homes, hotels, roads and harvests, and threaten to engulf large areas of Cotonou, Benin's capital. A government-commissioned study about a year ago recommended urgent action to hold back the rising tides, and save the city's ports, airport, and coastal communities, but political infighting has blocked funding. Residents of the city, with a population of about three million people, say little has changed - except the advancing sea. Accountant Finagnon Dossa said storms in March 2007 caused over US$3,000 of damage to his property, 500 metres from the coast in the east Cotonou district of Donaten. His retired fisherman neighbour, Jacques, has lived by the sea for 20 years: "There is only one explanation. It is coastal erosion. It is a problem all over the world. We want to leave," he said. However, both Jacques and Dossa said they did not have the money to find other lodgings inland. Vacation homes and government buildings dot Benin's 125-km coastline, but most of the 100,000 people in east Cotonou - the most vulnerable to sea damage from coastal erosion - can ill-afford the advancing sea. Benin's Urban Planning Ministry estimates the sea may rise by up to 59m, in a worst- case scenario, by the year 2100. A 2007 study by the UK-based non-profit International Institute for Environment and Economic Development (IIED) found coastal erosion could wipe out Benin's eastern districts of Donaten, Tokplegbe, Finagnon, Akpakpa-Dodomey and JAK, if nothing is done to stop the sea's advance. IIED mapped out roads, drainage, pavement and coconut plantations that have begun to disappear. Researchers said coastal erosion could kill off Benin's industrial, fishing and tourism sectors, and wipe out buildings, ports, and the airport, as well as other infrastructural facilities. Cotonou, which sits on alluvial sand at most four metres deep, drives most of Benin's economy, in addition to being a regional trade hub. Its port brings in most of the country's customs revenue, and its Danktopa market earns over US$750 million annually, according to the IIED. Until recently, it was legal for companies in Benin to pump sand from the beach for construction projects, further shrinking the coast. The government banned this practice in September 2007, but locals say they still see companies hauling away sand. Gilbert Medje, president of the Benin non-profit organisation, Front United Against Coastal Erosion, said the city could not spare the sand, or the time. From his upstairs apartment in Akpakpa District, he looks out anxiously at the sea. He said his home used to be 141 metres from the ocean but over the past five years the sea had closed in by 30 metres.
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