20 December 2012

Gambia: Protecting the Coastline


Climate change in The Gambia is a critical problem, which is adversely affecting the structure and functional integrity of the country's ecosystem. Upland ecosystems have degraded largely due to erratic rainfall, overgrazing, soil erosion and intensive cultivation, the result of intense pressure on land resources, high population growth and recurrent droughts. Lowland ecosystems and riverine wetlands are threatened by salinity in the western half of the country, siltation and sedimentation resulting from upland degradation caused by erosion.

Declining rainfall over the last 45 years has increased aridity in the uplands and acidity/salinity of soils in the lowlands. The reduced flow of the Gambia River has caused saltwater intrusion from the Atlantic Ocean in much of the river basin. This degradation is manifested through loss of the natural productivity of the land; loss of native biological diversity and therefore its resilience; increased emission of carbon dioxide and reduced carbon sequestration; and the degradation of watershed functions, including destabilization of sediment storage and release.

It is therefore heartwarming to see the Ministry of Forestry and the Environment congregate with stakeholders to validate the project document that seeks to promote resilience, build costal defenses and mitigate the risks of climate change for our coastal communities.Considering that most of our coast villages are either fishing or rice cultivating towns, such a development project would greatly enhance the development process of the country, as fish production and rice cultivation are essential to food security.

Now that the project is validated, we hope that action will follow suit as mitigation and adaptation of climate particularly the protection of the ocean layer is urgent and greatly appealing.

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