The Fast-Disappearing Ghana's Coastine: Loss And Damage To Coastal Resources

Feature Article BBC Africa's Thomas Naadi visits a disappearing coastal village where beach sand now comes up to the top of window frames
BBC Africa's Thomas Naadi visits a disappearing coastal village where beach sand now comes up to the top of window frames

Ghana has one of the longest coastlines in West Africa, 550 km (360 miles) of which most of the coast is sandy or soft rock like clay and limestone with only few sections being rocky.

This geomorphological formation along the coast combined with human activities, global warming, climate change, strong and high tidal waves, strong and fast moving ocean currents, storm surges, sea level rise, coastal deforestation, sand winning and extraction, coastal infrastructural development, dam construction and the blocking and/or diverting of river channels, etc., have contributed to the damage, destruction and loss of of portions of Ghana's sea coastline.

A Coastline Under Threat.
Ghana’s coastline is under serious threats from a set of environmental causes since the turn of the 20th century.

This has necessitated the rolling out of a number of sea defence projects along the entire coastline from Aflao to Half-Assini by successive governments since pre-colonial time till date.

Some were completed, others have some phases completed and and the rest still ongoing.

Below are some of the key coastal defense works and protection undertaken in Ghana so far:

1. Keta Sea Defence Project.
2. Ada Sea Defence Project.
3. Sakumono Sea Defence Project.
4. Atorkor-Dzita- Anyanui Sea Defence Project.

5. Ngyiresia Coastal Protection Project.
6. Aboadze Coastal Works.
7. Nkontompo Coastal Works.
8. Blekusu Coastal Protection works.
9. Dansoman Coastal Protection Project.
10. Mensah Guinea Sea Defence Project.
11. La-Chorkor Sea Defence Project
12. Amanful-Kuma Sea Defence Project
13. New Takoradi Sea Defence Project
14. Axim Sea Defence Project
15. Anomabo Sea Defence Project
16. Ningo- Prampram Sea Defence Project
17. Dixcove Sea Defence Project 18. Komenda Sea Defence Project 19. Elmina Sea Defence Project 20. Cape-Coast Sea Defence Project.

The Coastline East of Volta Estuary.
The coastline east of the Volta Estuary is the fastest eroding. In early December 2022, Keta experienced one of the scariest coastal erosions ever witnessed in the area in living memory. An entire beach stretch (about 150 feet of beach) in front of Agblor Lodge and Aborigines Beach Resorts was eaten up by the sea. These beautiful tourist facilities are under great threat by the destructive waves generated by increasingly strong ocean currents.

Emancipation Beach Resort lost a big hut to the sea in 2022 and the facility is threatened.

These are worrisome development, indeed!
A Living Witness.
I grew up in Keta, precisely Dzelukope and Abutsiakope. I remember crossing an old very wide sand dune of a beach before reaching another one, especially around Ghanakpedzi and Lokpodzi beach towards Zomayi beach, Tettekope beach. I also remember vividly seeing a very wide beach around Tegbi-Kpota, Woe Lighthouse, Whuti, Srogbe, Adakordzi, Akplorwotokor in as recently as the 1990s.

Today, greater portions of those beaches are gone into sea and the communities are precariously exposed. Erosion along Ghana's entire stretch of 550km coastland, especially along its 100km situated between Volta Estuary and Aflao is arguably the greatest environmental threat in Ghana besides “galamsey”.

In 2012, I was in Fuveme for a tour and saw a thriving fishing community respledent with coconut trees, a school block with a wide beach in front of it, a sizeable number of houses. The scenery was same thing at Kporkporgbor and Gbakpeygbor. These three thriving fishing communities with thousands of coconut trees lining up their beachfront as well as the river fronts no longer exist on Ghana's geography map - courtesy a ravaging sea - wiped off and disolved in the deeps of the ocean.

The last time I was at the seabank of the nearby Anyanui Channel at exactly where Fuveme used to be about 10 years ago, I tried using my Google Maps App. When I googled Fuveme RC Basic School, the location was shown off the coast, a distance into the sea, far away from the current coast.

Fuveme, Gbakpeygbor and Kporkporgbor no longer exist on the terrestrial but in the waters! The sea has now created a new sandbar which has now blocked the original natural passage way from Anyanui to Ada, and gradually creating another entry into the sea for the river at the obliterated Fuveme area.

Other Communities About to Follow Suit.
On the eastern side of the Volta Estuary, communities such as Agorkedzi, Atiteti, Dzita, Kedzikope, Horvi, Blekusu, Adina, Agavedzi, Salakope, Amutsinu, Denu and Aflao, are now facing greater threat of being totally eroded in the next 20 to 50 years.

Remember, it took just under 10 years for Fuveme and others to be totally erased at an average 3-8 metres rate of erosion per annum along Ghana's coast. This is even worse at other places with as high as 14 metres cited. Indeed, danger looms!

Causes of Coastal Erosion.
Many factors have been adduced to coastal erosion in Ghana. Some of these are natural and others are anthropogenic or manmade.

The following are some of the most predominant ones.

- Climate Change: This is brought about by the general effects of global warming on all atmospheric conditions. Global warming itself is caused by the increasing level of atmospheric temperature above the pre-industrial levels. This ultimately causes the melting of ice caps and glaciers at the poles leading to sea level rise around tropical countries.

- Sea Level Rise: This is as a result of climate change and causes sea water to spill onto land and thereby eating up the coast. It is believed that a millimeter of sea level rise can cause about 3 meters erosion of the coastline.

- Strong Tides and Waves: Most of Ghana’s coastline experience strong waves and tides most parts of the year. This greatly contributes to erosion, especially where the coast is sandy.

- Destruction of Protective Vegetation: The removal of vegetative cover along the coast is also a cause for coastal erosion. Vegetation such as mangroves, coconut trees, coastal grasses all protect the coast against waves, winds and storm surges. And it has been observed that most of these vegetations have been destroyed by human activities and thereby exposing the area to the threats of the environment.

- Indiscriminate Sand Winning: Illegal and indiscriminate sand winning and extraction activities have also contributed to the phenomenon o coastal erosion along Ghana’s coast.

- Development of Infrastructure along the coast: The development of capital projects such as harbours, ports, Landing beaches, sea defence protection and walls, etc. have also contributed greatly to the coastal erosion. The construction of a port for example necessitates the diversion of prevailing ocean currents to a different directions and this almost always affects the down drift east of the facility. A good example is the Keta Sea Defence Project and its effects on the communities east of it such as Horvi, Blekusu, Agavedzi, Salakope and Amutsinu, etc.

- Nature and Alignment of The Coast: The sandy nature of most parts of the coastline of Ghana makes it susceptible to erosion. The coastal geomorphology of the coastline east o the Volta Estuary is a sandy one. In addition, the alignment of the coastline too is another factor. The coastline seems oblique to the prevailing winds, ocean currents and waves.

- Changes at the Estuary of River Volta: Since the construction of the hydro-electric dam at Akosombo in 1965, the Volta River has not been able to bring enough materials and sediments (silt deposits). The sea has since had this flow reduced in volume thereby slackening natural augmentation to sand dune pile up. The volume of materials have greatly reduced at the mouth of the river. This phenomenon has reduced the accretion process that used to the place on the eastern side of the estuary before the completion of the dam.

The process has worsened the erosional activities on the eastern side of the estuary leading to the disappearing of some coastal communities like Kporkporgbor, Gbakpeygbor, Fuveme, etc.

Effects of Coastal Erosion.
A lot of negative effects result from coastal erosion, namely: loss of land, loss of lives and livelihoods, damage to properties and infrastructure, displacement, resettlement, migration, etc.

Proposed Solutions to Coastal Erosion.
There are both natural and technical/scientific solutions to coastal erosion. Some natural ones are:

- planting coastal vegetation like mangroves, coconut trees; and

- legislation against sand winning, etc.
The scientific solutions include but not limited to:

- coastal civil engineering works like the construction of sea defense walls such dykes, groynes and beach revetments, beach nourishment, and land reclamation, etc.

It's An Annual Routine.
Reoccurring coastal erosion has been an annual affair for many years now; and has unfortunately become part of the people in Anlo, Keta and Ketu-South Districts. Every year, the people of Agorkedzi, Attiteti, Whuti, Srogbe Tegbi, Tettekope, Kedzikope, Salakope, Amutsinu, Agavedzi, Denu and Aflao, etc. suffer from coastal erosion at least twice a year – around April/May and November. These coastal communities have been at the mercy of this environmental threat for far too long.

In November 2021, it was total devastation, distress and dislodgement for the residents of Kedzikope, Agavedzi Amutsinu and Salakope, some of the communities worse affected by the week-long erosion and flooding when the waves entered these settlements. Sea water flooded homes, shops, kiosks, schools, cemeteries, shrines etc. People were rendered homeless, hapless and helpless.

Heartfelt Appeals.
The authorities and the people of these areas have appealed to government to come and protect the rest of the coast from Kporkporgbor through Fuveme, Agorkedzi, Attiteti, Dzita, Agbledomi, Whuti, Srogbe, Anloga, Woe, Tegbi, Tettekope, Dzelukope, Abutsiakope, Kedzikope, Horvi, Blekusu, Agavedzi, Salakope, Amutsinu, Adina, Adafienu, Denu and Aflao areas.

In short, the entire coast from Volta Estuary to the eastern part with the exception of Akplorwotorkor, Keta, Adzido, Vodza and Kedzi which have already seen some coastal protection civil engineering works, need a coastal protection works like sea defense walls, groynes, construction, beach revetment and nourishment for coastal protection.

Government of Ghana should join the West Africa Coastal Areas (WACA) Resilience Project, an eight country coastal protection project being financed by World Bank.

It is very important for the government to save the country’s coastline, the Ghanaian coastal communities, coastal resources, infrastructure, and the beautiful beaches for tourism development and promotion.

This is the only way to stop this perennial tidal wave erosion and the annual environmental threat.

Coastal communities in Anloga, Keta and Ketu-South areas and other places along the coast need salvation now.

Ghana is about to see its 550 km coastline retreated greatly just in a century through erosion if no comprehensive and scientific solution is found for this environmental threat. The earlier, the better.

Joel Degue
Environmental Activist.
(+233 242501638)