Man-made coastal erosion has reached alarming proportions in Togo. It is threatening the future of two major cities, Lome and Aneho, the current and former capitals, as well as dozens of fishing villages.

Coastal erosion, in which land or beaches are worn away by the wind and the waves, is destroying around five to ten meters (16-32 feet) of shoreline every year. In some locations, up to 25 meters has disappeared over the same period.

The sea doesn’t only eat away at the shoreline, it also consumes any infrastructure, such as roads or buildings, or vegetation which may have been growing on it. Nothing remains.

Both the Togolese Environmental Department and the World Bank have launched projects to limit the damage being caused by coastal erosion. They involve, firstly, the building of physical structures that inhibit the destructive power of the wind and the waves, and secondly, encouragement for coastal communities to play an active part in defending their shoreline and to develop alternative sources.of income to replace those that contribute to coastal erosion.

Port construction

Coastal erosion exists in nature, it is not necessarily man-made. But in Togo the damage can be traced backed to human intervention and the building of the autonomous deep sea port of Lome in 1968. The port can accommodate heavily-laden seagoing cargo vessels that require a water depth of more than nine meters.

Tchannibi Bakatimbe, project manager at the Togolese Environmental Department, told DW that the port’s construction had disrupted the process of sedimentary accumulation. This is a natural process in which the beaches continually acquire deposits of sand, making up for the amount lost by erosion. The building of the port changed the direction of the currents and created a huge drift of sand just off the coast. “The drift prevents sand from being deposited on the beach,” Bakatimbe said.

Lome port is an important source of revenue for Togo and is the only port in West Africa from which vessels can reach several of the region’s capitals in just one day.

Pledge of future cooperation over environment

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