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Report on Africa at COP21 #4: Marine life at the verge of extinction due to climate change in Africa: COP21 African delegates divulge

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By Mildred Barasa, Secretary General of the African Network of Environmental Journalists

During the COP21, Mildred Barasa produces for the FEP special reports covering testimonies of African actors present in Paris.

African delegates attending the ongoing COP21 Paris conference blamed the problem of climate change on the rapid extinction of marine life in their countries.

Capture d’écran 2015-12-10 à 15.19.11.pngMr. Christian Follikoue from Togo is a programme officer for a nongovernmental organization known as NADDAF in the small African country of Togo.

He asserts that in his country, the problem of extermination of marine life is both real and nerve-racking. Mr. Follikoue gives an example of fish, a very important traditional source of livelihood to a good percentage of people in his country and other African countries. He says that many fisher men who ordinarily depended on fish for food as well as income have abandoned their work due to either availability of very small and few fish or total lack of the same.

Says Mr. Follikoue, “A big number of fishermen have left their jobs and resorted to other alternative sources of income. This is because they no longer catch fish like they used to a few years back. The few who are still fishing have to put in more strenuous hours in order for them to get just a few small fish.”

He avers that apart from the extended hard hours of toiling, fishermen have to travel to far off areas in the Atlantic ocean for them to do their work. Due to the adversities that are involved in the exercise, fish has become a very expensive commodity in Togo and the available fish is very small in size.

Overfishing is rampant in the country and all other marine animals are facing the same problems. Marine tortoises, mangroves, sea grass and turtles are a few that he mentions and adds that the lives of the above are severely threatened.

Coastal erosion is endemic and chemicals and pesticides from industries as well as from farms have killed a number of marine animals.

“The coastal town of Aneho for example might disappear in the next three to four years, since  water fills houses at night and becomes impossible for people to survive in such circumstance,” Says Mr. Follikoue.

Capture d’écran 2015-12-10 à 15.36.20.pngMiss Oumy from Senegal as well holds the same views and adds that the inhabitants of the Salom island in her country are experiencing the same problem.
Like the Togolese people, they have depended on marine animals especially for food and general livelihood since time immemorial but now things have taken the wrong turn.

“Since they no longer find enough fish like they used to a few years ago, they have resorted to looking for unconventional ways of earning a living. Most of them hence live in abject poverty since the turtles, fish, tortoises and other sea animals that they depended on can no longer sustain them,” says Miss Oumy.

Capture d’écran 2015-12-10 à 15.37.26.pngMs Mary Simat, a Kenyan delegate says that the situation is almost similar in her country. She mentions the perpetual floods around Narok town in Kenya that eventually carry all the fertilizers and pesticides used by farmers to the lakes and rivers.

This accompanied by industrial wastes that some companies deposit in rivers destroy marine life. Over time, Kenyan marine life has suffered immensely due to the introduction of water hyacinth especially in her lakes.

Lake Victoria has been the worst hit thus rendering millions of fishermen and their families to abject poverty, since the lake has been their only source of income.

In cities like Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu where there is concentration of industries, it is common to see big bubbles in the rivers that are illegally introduced into the waters. In such rivers e.g. the Nairobi river, the thought of seeing marine animals like fish, turtles, tortoises etc is a dream

The water hyacinth, a free-floating perennial aquatic plant native to tropical South America, is suffocating Lake Victoria, the second-largest fresh-water lake in the world.

The water hyacinth moves seasonally with the waves from bay to bay blocking water-ways and affecting aquatic life as it sucks oxygen from the water.

It is estimated that at least one-third of the populations of the three East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania derive their livelihoods from the lake through subsistence fishing and agriculture.   

It is unfortunate that the large population that once depended on the lake for their livelihood can no longer rely on the same thanks to the water hyacinth that was noticed in Lake Victoria in the mid nineties and has moved fast to other areas like Lake Naivasha among others in the East African region.

FEP-4Raimundo.pngMr. Raimundo Ela Nsang is the Executive Secretary of the Coalition to Restore Democracy in Equatorial Guinea (CORED). He says that in his country, exploration and production of oil generates oil spillages into the natural environment that prevent the normal development of species.

Says Mr. Nsang, “Each year, the Niger Delta is polluted with at least 2.3 billion cubic meters of oil resulting from 300 different spills. Furthermore, the gas flame towers emit substances that are harmful to plants, such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.”

A former engineer who worked in the Gulf of Guinea, he maintains that the degradation to marine ecosystems is also very high in this region, as oil extraction occurs mostly offshore. According to him, the pollution may originate with oil spillage from well leaks, degassing and cleaning oil tankers in deep water in breach of international legislation.

Mr. Nsang points out that an example of September 2008, and claims that the rupturing of an undersea pipeline then, belonging to a company known as Perenco Gabon resulted in an environmental catastrophe in the Fernan Vas lagoon (province of Ogooue-Maritime).

The coastline of the Gulf of Guinea is 4,282 km long, stretching from the Benin-Nigerian border to the one between Angola and Namibia. Its beaches were contaminated, which threatens natural habitants such as mangroves and sea grass areas, as well as sprawling grounds, which results in the destruction of fish and devastation of eggs.

He holds that marine tortoises are in danger: five of the eight known species of turtles that live in the world’s oceans are present in the Gulf of Guinea, and four of them are considered threatened. Nesting at these sites becomes difficult due to the erosion of beaches, marine pollution and oil slicks.

Given the above marine problems of ecosystems, it is evident that villagers can no longer live from activities tied to nature such as fishing which is an unfortunate truth.

As a way to prevent the problems above, some delegates are of the opinion that African countries should practice good governance for a solution to be reached. Some maintain that industries that emit waste in oceans, rivers and lakes should be done away with while a big number of delegates hold to the point that the existing laws are good enough to handle the situation hence there should be serious and proper implementation of the same.

Photos: Midlred Barasa

  • The views expressed on this blog are those of the authors alone. They are published as a contribution to the public debate and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Fondation de l’Écologie Politique as an institution.

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