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Langue De Barbarie

St. Louis: A City Laboratory for Climate Change


“Our land is a laboratory for climate change,” says Mustafa Diang, an elderly fisherman and representative of the fishermen’s union of St. Louis and the Langue de Barbarie. You can’t blame him; the Langue de Barbarie, a strip of land between the Senegal River and the Atlantic Ocean, is occupied in its northern part by fishing districts with the highest population density in all of Senegal, and in its southern part by the national park of the same name, which is dotted with several villages. This is a particularly fragile area that’s subjected, on the one hand, to the threat of the Atlantic waves that, due to rising sea levels in recent years, have destroyed several houses, a school, and a mosque, and submerged entire villages, and, on the other, to the flooding of the river that already 20 years ago had inundated the city of St. Louis (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000). And it’s for these reasons that in 2008 the UN ‘Habitat’ report identified St. Louis and the surrounding area as the place in Africa “most threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change.”

Since then, the area has been continuously monitored by geologists from Dakar University. An embankment has been built to protect the houses at greatest risk, but more than 300 families have already been evacuated and relocated to camps and new settlements under construction about ten kilometers inland. Other projects, such as the construction of a canal to drain the river waters into the sea, have proved counterproductive and led to the disappearance of entire villages under the floodwaters.
In all this, the forecasts for the future, despite a momentary receding of the water, are far from optimistic. Studies by the Ministry of the Environment predict a serious risk of evacuation for a large part of the population of St. Louis and the villages along the Langue de Barbarie, as well as a threat to the fauna in the national park.
As if that were not enough, fishing has also collapsed, and today the majority of the inhabitants of the Langue de Barbarie, consisting of fishermen and women who process and sell the fish, are facing a double challenge.


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