Mauritanian capital at risk from rising sea levels

Mauritanian capital at risk from rising sea levels
Satellite imagery has revealed increased flooding risk to areas of Nouakchott due to rising sea levels in the Atlantic, with western parts of the city most at risk.
2 min read
14 April, 2015
Mauritanian coastal village [Getty]

The Mauritanian capital is at greater risk of flooding due to rising sea levels, according to new satellite imagery that shows the areas of the capital under threat.

The danger comes because of eroded sandbanks, or shoals, along the coast, and Nouakchott’s location in a depression 50cm below sea level close to the ocean.

A source told al-Araby al-Jadeed that areas at greatest risk were in the south west, as far as the Baghdad district road and the area south of Nouakchott International Airport, which is soon to be replaced by a new airport.

Scientific studies have warned in the past that climate change, rising sea levels, low sandbanks and soil erosion due to pollution and poor sewage disposal are threatening to drown the city.

The environment ministry launched a study on the possible flooding of the capital. The study focused on the deterioration of the natural sandbanks and rises in salinity levels in some areas.

Radical solutions

Environmental activists are calling for radical solutions to keep the capital above ground. The government is trying to solve the issue by reclaiming beach areas, restoring sandbanks and growing a green belt along the coast.

The government has also embarked on a new programme in conjunction with the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (commonly known as GIZ) that will go on until 2017 with the aim of restoring sandbanks and identifying all the gaps in the natural barrier.

The programme has managed so far to work on 50 hectares of traditional fishing beaches and fill gaps in the sandbanks that defend Nouakchott from the rising sea levels. A barrier has been erected, 560 metres long, 4m high and 10m wide.

A division of the environment ninistry's climate change programme is working on setting up an early warning system and encouraging further research into the effects of climate change on Mauritania.