Ghana has started building seawalls at key points along its shore to stop coastal erosion and protect beaches, communities and historic buildings. But fishermen say the walls make it hard to pull in their nets, while coastal resorts say the walls hurt their businesses.
Ben Idun set up a resort in the coastal town of Elmina in 2009, imagining people would flock to its golden beach.
However, he has spent much of his time trying to stop rapid coastal erosion, which he attributes to years of illegal sand mining in the area.
When authorities finally stepped in the mining decreased, and to stop further erosion, a rocky sea defense wall was built on the shore in 2017. But this added more woes for the resort, as hotel guests can no longer access the water.
“I think that Ghana’s tourism potential is really what is at risk, and when I looked at it any promotion that talks about Ghana, one of the things we always raise - apart from heritage - is our beautiful beachfronts and I really think we've got to start putting some effort and investment behind ensuring, protecting and improving our beachfronts - and they can start right here,” Idun said.
Ghana has an average erosion rate of about two meters a year with some smaller sites seeing up to 17 meters of erosion in one year, says Donatus Angnuureng, from the University of Cape Coast’s Center for Coastal Management.
Dr. Angnuureng has seen areas where heavy waves and flooding have claimed homes.
In response to these issues, the government is building more sea defense walls along its coast. While some of the walls allow beach access, there are concerns about the walls’ impact and effectiveness.
While the sea defense walls have worked in the short term to stabilize the beach and protect properties, Dr. Angnuureng questions how they will hold up in the long run as the sea level rises with global warming.
While there needed to be measures put in place to save properties, he said other approaches should be considered.
“We can consider some soft solutions like vegetation, mangroves or just nourishment with sand. We can mix solutions, and we can have our beaches and even have gardens and proper recreational areas,” Dr. Angnuureng said.
While some in the Central Region campaigned for the seawalls, fishermen such as Christopher Ahorsu say they fear for their livelihoods, worried the sea walls will block them from doing their already precarious work.
“It will disturb us and all of the time when we are pulling the nets, our minds go there - that’s all the work we do here, we don’t have any work, we do only the sea work that we do,” Ahorsu said.
Ghana’s Central Region Minister Kwamena Duncan grew up in the area and has watched the coastline erode over the past 15 years. He said the walls are to protect livelihoods and are constructed to allow for the needs of the fishermen.
“I think the broad objective is to protect the townships, and the hotels themselves are not far removed from where the towns are, and it cannot also be done at one point and some places are left. So if that happened then somehow the whole activity is defeated," Duncan said.
He expressed hope hotels and communities along the coast will adapt to the walls as Ghana itself has to adapt to the changing climate.