City sinks as gov’t officials fight

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Hundreds of damaged homes as well as businesses including hotels and farm lands is the unfortunate scene in Cotonou, the capital of the west African country of Benin. Large areas of the city is under the threat of being swallowed up by the sea due to rising levels.

Although a government-commissioned study was compiled last year, political infighting has blocked funding to the urgent action needed to suppress the rising tides, and save the city’s ports, airport, and coastal communities. The local population of about three million are helpless onlookers at their own demise as the sea continues its unrelenting advance.

Swathes of West Africa’s coastline extending from the orange dunes in Mauritania to the dense tropical forests in Cameroon will be underwater by the end of the century as a direct consequence of climate change, environmental experts warn.

A 2007 study by the UK-based non-profit International Institute for Environment and Economic Development (IIED) found that the 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.

Even where urban areas appear unscathed, sea level rise will still challenge towns and cities with extensive flooding and waterborne disease and also threaten underground water supplies from which millions of people across the region draw their water.

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.

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