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Erosion Undercuts Nigeria Beach Tourism

Protesters in beachfront community of Lekki, Nigeria, say erosion is threatening their lives and their property - and they want authorities to take actions to reverse the ocean's assault on this peninsula east of Lagos, July 2011

Beachfront erosion is undermining a popular tourist destination outside Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos. Environmentalists say stronger tides are partly the result of fewer trees and the harvesting of beach sand for construction.

Protesters in the beachfront community of Lekki say erosion is threatening their lives and their property. They want Nigerian authorities to take actions to reverse the ocean's assault on this peninsula east of Lagos, where they say the tide has come in more than 100 meters since the start of the year.

Lekki residents' association chairman Silvester Oputa said people here now live in constant fear of heavy rains and strong tides.

"Most of the people have big investments here, and the danger is very inherent and if care is not taken, with the rains in the next two weeks, I think we will be washed away," said Oputa.

Saving the beach is too big of a job for the Lagos state government to handle alone, say state officials. But they promise to seek federal funding in order to better protect the area from rising tides.

Lekki is home to some of the most valuable beachfront property in West Africa, as the wealth of Lagos moves into this lagoon. The area is near a new free trade zone - and a planned community for more than a quarter-million people - built on an artificial island made out of sand dredged from the ocean floor.

At some points on this peninsula, just 20 meters of sand separate the ocean from the lagoon. People along Lekki's Alpha Beach are suffering as strong tides wash away businesses that just months ago catered to weekend crowds of tourists.

Sam Obed runs Lekki's Fun Factory Beach Pub.

“Drastically, the business is down for now, unlike before when people used to come," said Obed. "You see a lot of people, a lot of crowds come to Alpha Beach. Business was booming. But for two months now business is really down.”

Obed's neighbor, youth pastor Lai Amidu, said there were far more palm trees along this beach when he moved here nine years ago.

"Over the years, because of unregulated activities of people who cut these trees, we have lost most of these trees. And I think the trees were actually some sort of protection for the land," said Amidu. "It used to resist the water coming forward. But right now, since we don't have these trees, the water gets its way, can come in at will and get to us.”

Amidu said unscrupulous shipowners also are to blame for stronger tides because they are unwilling to spend the money to properly remove aging vessels from the ocean.

“It costs actually a large amount of money to get those vessels out of the water. So what they do is they just abandon them along the waterfront," said Amidu. "And that is creating a menace here. I think part of what we are getting here is a direct result of upsetting the balance of nature.”

What was once a promising tourist destination is now washing away day by day. Local residents say one of the first things they want is the removal of wrecks that are common, which are changing the way the tides come in.