Author: Tommy Trenchard

A disappearing island: 'The water is destroying us, one house at a time'

Source(s): NPR

[...]

Today, Nyangai is disappearing before his very eyes, swallowed up by the relentless sea. As recently as ten years ago, it still measured some 2,300 feet from end to end. What's left today is a patch of sand barely 300 feet long and 250 wide. The forests are gone, swamped by saltwater. The soccer field lies under water for 22 hours of the day. And the land on which Charlie's family home once stood, the home he was born in, has long since vanished beneath the waves. In as little as two years, Charlie fears, Nyangai may no longer exist at all.

[...]

With nearly a third of its population living in coastal areas, and its heavy reliance on subsistence agriculture and fishing, Sierra Leone has been identified as one of the world's most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, despite having contributed just a tiny fraction of global CO2 emissions. With a GDP per capita of barely $2,000, it is also one of the least prepared to deal with those impacts.

[...]

The island's chief, Mustafa Kong, estimates that 20 years ago there were more than 500 homes on Nyangai, with an average of 8 people living in each. Now there are barely 70. Most people have left for the safety of neighboring islands or the mainland, joining the estimated 20 million people worldwide displaced by climate change and extreme weather events on average each year.

[...]

For the roughly 400 people who remain, the constant erosion has prevented any kind of stability. At one point there were three separate villages on different parts of the island. By 2012, however, the land had been reduced to a thin strip, and the villages merged into a single settlement stretching along its length. Then, in 2015, the sea began to eat away the strip's middle, eventually separating the people on one end from those on the other. One island had become two.

[...]

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