Last Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014, 21:11 GMT

Liberia: Coastal erosion displaces hundreds

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Liberia: Coastal erosion displaces hundreds, 28 May 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48440538e.html [accessed 23 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BUCHANAN, 28 May 2008 (IRIN) - Coastal erosion has wiped out dozens of homes and left nearly 200 inhabitants homeless in Buchanan, the second largest city in Liberia, and government officials say the whole city of 200,000 people is threatened.

"The situation is clearly posing a threat to the entire city. Since 2006 the sea has been gradually encroaching on Buchanan leaving more than one hundred homes destroyed and displacing hundreds of people, and it is still getting worse," Julia Duncan-Cassell, superintendent of Grand Bassa County said.

She told IRIN if nothing is done immediately, the entire city could be rubbed off the map.

"We have made several appeals to government and international organisations to come in and find a way of stopping the ocean, but to no avail. If nothing is done, I am afraid the whole of Buchanan could be wiped away".

Coastal erosion is a problem all along Liberia's coastline as eight of Liberia's 15 counties have their main settlements on the coast. However the culprit is apparently not climate change.

According to a joint survey prepared by the Liberian government and the United Nations Development Programme on the state of the environment in Liberia two years ago, most of the erosion is caused by unregulated sand mining.

Liberia's Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy Eugene Shannon recently told reporters in Buchanan that people are looting metal barriers and even rocks that were previously used as sea defences.

"One of the major factors responsible for the coastal of the coast in Buchanan is the extraction of the breakwaters which some of the residents are using for construction purposes," Shannon said.

"As a result of this, the corridor where those rocks and metals were placed are now opened allowing the sea to hit the shorelines and devastating homes, which has now affected residents in Buchanan."

The short-term measure would be to dump breakwaters into the Atlantic Ocean to prevent the ocean from reaching shorelines, Shannon said. A long-term fix entails a coastal assessment study to determine the level of risk to our coastal communities ? quite a stretch in a country which has not even completed a national census for decades.

For Buchanan's struggling fishermen, that assistance is likely to come too late.

"Because of the erosion, we are no longer fishing on a large scale and there is a shortage of fish locally on the market. How can we catch fish when we do not have homes to sleep in?" Sundaygar Togba, a fisherman told IRIN.

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