At their recent summit in Germany, G7 leaders agreed to limit global warming to 2°C, but along Senegal’s coast, the consequences of climate change are already tangible. The Petite Cote coastline is suffering severe land loss due to erosion.
Rising temperatures, blamed by a large body of science on increasing man-made CO2 emissions, have affected communities, hotels and cemeteries in the country. In the town of Rufisque, Saliou Ndoye maintains the graves along with one other volunteer. Three quarters of the cemetery he cares for has been swallowed up by the sea. It’s being caused by a mixture of rising sea levels and storm surges.
“There is only a small part of the cemetery. A major part is now in the sea. Sometimes the children who bathe on the beach find human bones. It is so terrible,” Ndoye said.
According to government data, coastal erosion in the country ranges between one and two centimetres annually. By 2080, three quarters of the coast will face ‘high risk of erosion’ status due to rising sea levels. That’s up from around half now.
Authorities have been trying to combat coastal erosion for several years.
Aissata Sall of the Ecological Monitoring Centre said: ‘‘Since 2007, there have been strong swells that have caused enormous problems at the Thiawlene neighbourhood, the cemetery and homes. The state of Senegal had established provisional measures for interim protection, hoping to find in the future other substantial funding.”
Anti-salt dykes have been introduced to mitigate salination of agricultural lands, as have sea defences to prevent further erosion.
The Petite Cote is also home to many tourist resorts. Long considered a powerhouse of Senegal’s economy, those that rely on visitors for their income now fear the influence of rising tides.
Alioune Ciss, owner of Africa 6 hotel, said: “The tourist who buys a beach holiday and comes and finds no beach, once back in his country will lodge a complaint. That’s why hotels are deteriorating, because there are no longer clients, there is no longer anything. It is a phenomenon that is there – there’s no need to say “in the long term,” we’ve arrived at the end.”
In Saly, a programme was launched to save hotel beaches by laying cob stones to slow advancing tides, however, work was recently abandoned on the project. In Rufisque, a dike was built at Thiawlene. But all this comes at a price, around 5 million euros – for 730 metres of dike.
Despite encroaching waters, Senegal’s Petite Cote continues to attract tourists. The construction of a new international airport is giving hope to local hotel and restaurant owners.