Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

6 February 2013

Cameroon: Construction Sites - A Permanent Danger to Wetlands

The creation of this new resettlement influences encroachment into mangroves and marshlands.

In the wake of the celebration of World Wetlands Day in 2013 under the theme: "Wetlands Protect Our Waters," it is still evident that many people have not grasp a full understanding of what wetlands are, their roles in biodiversity and even the need for protection, as a means of sustainable development. Made up mainly of mangroves and marshlands, this part of the earth plays an indispensable role in the safeguard of nature in particular, and of humanity as a whole. It has been established by environmentalists that mangroves among others things, protect the soil from erosion, control the flow of water from the sea towards land, serves as water reserve, reproduction zone for fish and a habitat to rare aquatic species; given that it is the area between water and land. The destruction of wetlands through deleterious practices like farming, bushfires, deforestation and dumping is accompanied by counter effects on the community.

Even though climate change, deforestation and forestation constitute the singsongs in today's society, applicable measures are still lagging. Such is the case in Douala, where a host of the population has created a new settlement commonly called "Bois des Singes" (interpreted as Monkeys' wood, given that it was their habitat, till now). The new locality is enclosed by the Douala International Airport on the left, and the Douala-Edea Wildlife Reserve on the right; both classified as risk zones for habitation. Once a habitat for monkeys, the local population used to fetch wood, farm and fish on the over 25-hectare land. Today, an estimated 3000 inhabitants has mushroomed into the area, which has dispersed the monkeys, while steadily reducing the mangroves and marshy areas.

However, this act has not left the competent authorities indifferent. For instance, the name "Bois des Singes" was established on June 5, 2012 after the signing of a partnership on sustainable management of mangroves between the University of Douala and the Cameroon Network for the Conservation of the Ecosystems and Mangroves (RCM). Meanwhile, on December 18 2012, the President of the National Assembly, Honourable Cavaye Djibril personally led the planting of mangroves exercise in the reserve. Earlier in 2008, the Government Delegate at the Douala City Council, Fritz Ntone Ntone, during a descent on the site, demarked the area limit for construction, pending the relocation of the population to a more appropriate site, which project is in gestation at the level of the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development.

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