Oceans are currently under threat from various factors including climate change and plastic pollution. Sea-level rise is a growing worry in West Africa, and in Ghana, many have already been forced to abandon homes and livelihoods.
Between 2005 – 2017, according to research, 37% of Ghana's Coastal land was lost to erosion and flooding. In some areas, the shoreline retreated as much as 100 meters, destroying everything on its path including people's homes, natural landing sites for fishermen, nesting places for turtles, and habitats for other animals leaving some people homeless, with destroyed livelihoods, whilst others have been displaced and some animals left on the brink of extinction.
In an interview on The SDG Hub, Professor Divine Ahadzie, (Head, Center for Settlement Studies, KNUST) mentioned that, for the past 21 years, about 2 meters of erosion happen every year in Ghana.
“If you look at the data, since, for the last 21 years, it is established in Ghana that the sea level has risen by 5.3cm and this is accounting for about 30% of the observed annual coastal erosion which means that, every year, for the past 21 years, we are experiencing about 2 meters of erosion every year.”
Coastal erosion for the past years has ruined a lot of fishing villages in the coastal areas of Ghana. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed that, in 2017, Fevemeh, a fishing village Located on the edge of the Gulf of Guinea, near the town of Keta in the Volta region on Ghana’s eastern coast suffered severe coastal erosion with close to eighty houses being destroyed, alongside a school building. Not only that, with more than 300 inhabitants dislodged, farmlands and plantations washed away leaving local fishermen with no livelihoods. The situation has only worsened in the last three years, with the shoreline retreating several meters with some as much as 100 meters.
Almost 4,000 people on Ghana's coast were displaced after a weekend tidal surge swept through more than 500 houses in the Volta region in 2021. Ghana's National Disaster Management Organisation brought out that 1,557 individuals in the Keta district were displaced with 239 houses affected. In the Anloga district, 1,394 persons were displaced and 134 houses were affected. 1,027 individuals in the Ketu South were displaced with 149 houses affected. The question remains, how can this end, and what causes coastal erosion?
Climate change is a major contributing factor to high sea rise and coastal erosion. Speaking on the SDG Hub, Dr. Felix Addo – Yobo, (SDG Advisory Unit, Office of the Presidency) laid emphasis on the need to address the issue of climate change.
“Climate change is having an enormous impact on the sea or the ocean with ramifications for human settlements and we need to act in that line,” he said.
Research has shown that mangroves play a vital role in curbing coastal erosion. Mangroves are known to be nature-based solutions if planted in coastal areas. They help in serving as a coastal defense.“One area that we have not taken very keenly is the use of mangroves to be able to help us and also integrate into our coastal defense systems,” Professor Divine Ahadzie added.
This is quite the opposite in some Ghanaian coastal areas. The mangroves are mostly cut down and used as firewood. Speaking on this issue, Professor Divine Ahadzie added, “So for instance my own understanding of the area if you look at even the Keta area and areas is that the mangroves are either taken down for firewood instead of a conscious attempt for them to be planted.”
Ending or reducing coastal erosion is not only the burden of the government. Citizens together with the government can work towards reducing it. Avoiding the use of single-use plastics, the building of sea defense walls by the government, and planting mangroves around coastal areas, can gradually help in curbing coastal erosion.