Buchanan – Forty years ago, Atlantic Street was one of this coastal city’s busiest streets, teeming with boutiques and small shops. Today it is almost deserted. The creeping coastline has swallowed up the structures and threatens to drive out the street itself.
Bobby Gibson’s father used to run a popular department store known as Gibson Beach.
“If you’ve ever heard of Gibson Beach somewhere out there but the sea has taken it away,” Gibson says, pointing to the area under the waves where the shop was sitting.
Coastal erosion caused by climate-induced sea-level rise and severe tropical storms has destroyed the homes of hundreds of families and put important fisheries at risk. Nine of the country’s 15 provinces lie along the sea coast putting 60 percent of the population at risk and threatening an estimated $48 million in damage by 2100.
Buchanan’s low position was one of the first places I felt the effect. In 2008, 20 homes were demolished in the Bardur and Leh township community. Many families became homeless and some had to migrate to other nearby communities.
The Gibson family struggled to rebuild their livelihood in a nearby community.
“The beach was a major source of income for the family,” says Bobby. “People came from as far away as Monrovia during weekends and beach holidays. It was one of the leading beaches in Buchanan.”
A $2.9 million UNDP-supported project in 2010 laid large boulders, known as “re-elevation,” along the shoreline from the harbor to the Atlantic Street area. rocks worked. Communities feel safe at the moment. The United Nations Development Program expects them to hold back the sea for at least 40 years.
Residents of the now threatened neighboring communities of Bardor Wleh and Corcorwein would like to see the wall extend into their areas.
UNDP Energy and Environment Specialist Musa Masah says the Buchanan project, in line with the approved project document, is fully completed. But plans to expand the much-needed rock wall were thwarted because the Sirleaf administration refused to provide co-financing to international donors needed to fund the project.
Massah hopes to gain support from Weah’s administration.
“Alongside the government, we are mobilizing resources to address the situation,” Massah says.
Jackson and Seah’s home was among 20 homes that had been swallowed up by the sea in the town of Bardor Willa in April 2008. He moved with his family to Corcorwin, another fishing community. He now works with a 50-man fishing co-op. The sea is now chasing him here too.
“Sea erosion has done a lot of damage in this community,” Weiss says, pointing to the empty spaces on the beach. “From here along the road there were buildings but the sea destroyed everything.”
Al-Waseeh and his crew mend the nets on the beach while waiting for the sea to calm down for their day trip. The coastal defense did not reach Corcorene. Mediation wants the government to extend the project here.
“When the sea is full, that side can embarrass the boats,” Weiss says, referring to the damage the high seas do to his boats. “So we are begging the government to throw some stones on that side, and that they will repair the area where we are going to park these boats there.”
John Weah was born and raised in the town of Bardor, Leh. He vividly remembers waking up one night to see his house among the 20 that had been washed away by a dark ocean wave in 2008. Now 64, he lives with his family in the same Corcorwein community as Wesseh. Afraid every night he goes to sleep.
“We’re still afraid because anything can happen,” says Weah. “We’re on this side here, when [gets] dark by the sea [gets] Full of truth can come all the way in this aspect.”
Migration from one coastal community to another is only a short-term solution, says Jerome Ninka, head of the Environmental Protection Agency and now an assistant professor of forest economics, forest carbon and climate change at the University of Liberia. And the rock walls won’t block the sea forever. Instead, Nyenka says, societies will need to adapt to survive in the long term. He urges coastal communities to stop building on the beach and change the way they think.
“One of the things you can’t do for the coastal community is to develop infrastructure,” says Nyenka. “If you start building on the beaches, it will be more dangerous than unregulated sand mining. So, we need to change our attitude towards the coast. This is the first thing. The next thing is to do coastal defense. So you can combine the second: change your attitude towards the coast and the beaches. and a coastal defense intervention.
The West Point community is now the focus of coastal defense efforts. Like Buchanan, West Point was badly damaged by the sea. In West Point alone, more than 800 homes have been swallowed up, displacing 6,000 people. Its residents are crying out for help from their government as the rainy season usually approaches mid-April.
“Erosion has been bothering us for many years, carrying our homes, carrying even a human being; we lose lives, we lose homes,” says resident Jacob Jimmy.
The government and UNDP announced a major new community protection project at the end of last year. The $25.6 million Monrovia Metropolitan Climate Change Project began in January and will see the rehabilitation of rocks to block the sea.
$17.2 million of that amount will come from the Green Climate Fund, an international fund made up of donations from rich countries to help low-income countries adapt to climate change. $1.5 million will come from the United Nations Development Program while the Liberian government is expected to come in to put in $6.8 million.
The United Nations Development Program has also worked with the government to construct a new building in New Crow Town and there are plans for a US$9.8 million project in Greenville, Sinoe County where one of Greenville’s main streets is already coastal erosion.
More coastal communities are asking for help. In River Cess County, fishermen in several fishing communities, including Klaygbay, Mannah Beach and Timbo Beach, who have made a living from fishing for decades, say they are forced to relocate to neighboring communities due to damage to their landing sites due to sea erosion.
Although there are no reports of homes being washed away by sea erosion in the Sis River, fishermen here are complaining about a sharp decline in their catch. This has caused another impact of climate change, Nyenka says.
Rising temperatures are melting the ice caps at the North and South Poles, causing more fresh water to flow into the ocean, increasing intense storms and disturbing the reproduction of marine life. At the same time, damage from human waste and mangrove felling in fragile coastal wetland areas is reducing fish spawning grounds.
“The ocean tides are harsh,” says Ninka. “Most egg-laying sea creatures, the moment the sea passes by, will damage the eggs.” “So [species] Which comes from the sea and lays its eggs in the mangroves, when they return with their young to the ocean and when they hit the tides, all the young will die. This will affect business activities; Those who go fishing will not get enough catch.”
Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program in Liberia, Stephen Rodriguez, says he has visited communities and is aware of the extent of the damage to people. But he says there is no way to stop the sea forever.
“While these coastal and livelihood protection measures are very important, the bottom line is that we simply have to coexist better with nature,” Rodriguez says.
He says the only thing that will save Liberia’s coastal communities in the long term is stopping climate change.
“We all have a role to play in that,” Rodriguez says.
This story was in collaboration with New Narratives as part of the Climate Change Reporting Project. Funding was provided by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Development and the US World Jewish Service.