“It’s a fight and, in the end, we know who will be the winner”, loose Jérémie Koffi N’Guessan, while a colossal storm falls, at midday, on his restaurant in Abidjan. The roof is leaking and, through the window, you can hardly make out the torrents of rain from the raging waves crashing just above the foundations.
Mr. N’Guessan has been the manager of the Petit Bateau, a well-known canteen located along a dirt road – or rather mud, that day – in the Vridi district for fifteen years. Today, the flight of wooden tables overlooks the waves almost directly. « Avanthe continues, the restaurant was located at least 20 meters from the sea, there were coconut palms, a beach… But, over the years, the sea is advancing. »
“The sea advanceshe repeats, and we are going backwards, we have already rebuilt three times. Some years, it’s calm, but others, the sea breaks the walls, the waves water the roof. » Those years, he says, the landlord is good for a pay check. “15 million CFA francs” (22,800 euros) to redo the concrete and protect his establishment. A nice sum for this unpretentious restaurant which brings families together on Sundays around a grilled lobster, its specialty. But not commensurate with the amounts at stake for the infrastructure that surrounds it.
Cities at very low altitude
A few tens of meters away rise the enormous gray vats and the interlacing of chimneys of the Ivorian Refining Company, one of the main refineries in West Africa. Vridi, an island and a crucial industrial area for the country, also has a power station, cocoa and palm oil processing plants, not to mention numerous logistics sites and warehouses. A few kilometers to the east, on the same strip of flat land that stretches out facing the ocean, is the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport.
The Ivorian economic capital literally sits on the water, made up of islands and peninsulas separated by lagoon arms. Bridges lead to the central districts, towards the “continent”, a little higher, but some buildings still outcropping just above the brackish water.
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The city, which has more than 6 million inhabitants, or more than 20% of the country’s population, is aware of its vulnerability. « Today, coastal erosion problems are a major concern for Côte d’Ivoireexplains Abé Delfin Ochou, a university teacher and coordinator of a climate change resilience program involving the Ivorian authorities and the World Bank, the West Africa Coastal Areas Management (WACA). For at least two decades, the sea has been progressing at a rate of 1 to 2 meters, even 3 meters per year, and above all with spectacular advances where sometimes, in one night, you can have 10 meters of submerged land! »
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