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Benin struggles to halt coastal erosion despite spending millions of dollars

View of the sea   -  
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Homes and businesses along Benin’s Atlantic coast are losing their battle against the sea, with experts saying the country loses approximately 30 metres of its coastline every year to the ocean.

The government has spent millions of dollars protecting coastal communities from sea erosion, but climate change and rising sea levels have exacerbated the vulnerability of the coastal region.

Fisherman Raymond Mekpé remembers the coastline of his childhood.

"The homes of my grandparents and my parents were there,” he says, pointing out to sea, “and we played somewhere over there in our childhood.”

He believes it is the lack of monitoring and maintenance that has caused the sea to gain ground.

The government has built 13 structures along beaches, particularly to the east of the country’s largest city, Cotonou, in an attempt to slow down ocean erosion.

"We are now dealing with it segment by segment according to the investment and attack plan drawn up by the government. Those that are still vulnerable are being studied and will be dealt with in due course," says Esquill Outiclissou, executive in the government's general directorate of environment and climate.

He says the nearly $160 million the government has injected into the protection of the coast has helped slow down the ocean's advance.

But oceanographer Cossi Georges Degbe says that when protective structures are put in a given place, "we are just moving the phenomenon along".

As well as rising water levels, due to climate change, he says extreme weather phenomena are increasing, "with very high waves washing over our coasts".

Coastal erosion is impacting the whole of West Africa and other countries around the world. It is one of the subjects to be addressed at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai in December.

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