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Lang Strand residents exposed

Mon, 7 December 2015 17:03
by Charmaine Ngatjiheue
News Flash

Hundreds of residents along the coast line are in danger of losing their properties because of rising sea levels due to policy loopholes that leaves them exposed to estate agencies who sell houses without notifying them of the dangers.

This comes amid revelations by National Geographic online site that scientific research indicated that sea levels worldwide have been rising at a rate of 0.14 inches (3.5 millimetres) per year since the early 1990s.

Chief Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Romeo Muyunda confirmed that there no legal framework protecting the residents adding that the prerogative is left to the local authorities.

“Anyone may say they would like to build along the coastline and they are allowed to but what we are more concerned about is to see whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is completed to ensure that the beach environment will not be affected negatively with the building structure,” Muyunda said.

Muyunda added, “We look at things like toilet water not running into the sea, as our main focus is seeing whether the biodiversity or the coastal environment is protected. The safety of the house being built along the coastline is an issue that needs to be dealt with by the local authorities.”

A Director in the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development also told The Villager concurred that there is no policy in place to protect the residents. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists on the Climate Hot Map, roughly 40% of the world’s population lives within 62 miles (100 kilometres) of the ocean, putting millions of lives and billions of dollars’ worth of property and infrastructure at risk.

They said high tides and storm surges riding on ever-higher seas are more dangerous to people and coastal infrastructure, adding, natural protections against damaging storm surges are increasingly threatened.

As the coastal region of the country is developing, the rapid rise of the population brought an increasing pressure to build homes along the coast. If greenhouse gases continue to be added to the atmosphere, the average sea level around the world by the end of this century could be anywhere from 7 to 23 inches higher than it was in 1990.

Sea level could rise even more if the big ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt faster. This trend was attributed to global warming, which puts thousands of coastal cities at risks of being claimed by the ocean. In some places, wind patterns, ocean currents are leading to the level of sea rising faster while in some places, the land itself is sinking is rising and/or sinking.

The above is due to plate tectonics which are similar forces that cause earthquakes, create volcanoes, and build mountain ranges. At times, plate tectonics are man-made as people pumped lots of oil, natural gas, or water out of the ground. In coastal areas where the land is sinking, the effects of sea level rise will be even worse.

Rising sea level is a threat to people who live near the ocean. Some lowlying areas will have more frequent flooding, and very low-lying land could be submerged completely.

Rising sea level can also harm important coastal ecosystems like mangrove forests and coral reefs. Even though no African state thus far has come up with a Policy or strategy that deals with building houses alongside the coastline as way to be able to deal with possible disasters caused by rising water levels, North Carolina in the United States of America (USA) has tried to avoid the problems than can be brought on by the use of hard structures to control erosion.

Hard structures are things like jetties, which a structure is built perpendicular to the shore that extends out into the water.

Typically, they are concrete structures built at inlets and channels in order to maintain channels for shipping and navigation. Another is a groin is built perpendicular to the coast and works similar to the way a jetty works but groins are usually built on straight stretches of beach – not near inlets or channels.

Lastly there is also a sea wall, a wall built along the coast between the land and the ocean. While hard structures can protect beach homes and other buildings threatened by erosion, they’ve been criticized for causing increased erosion further down the beach.

However, there was a North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC), a policy-making body for the coastal management program which studied the effects of hard structures on beaches in other states.

The CRC noted that the potential negative effects of such structures could cause irreversible damage the beaches thus they recommended banning the construction of hard structures to protect buildings at the coast.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons