Gambia is not just economically poor and highly indebted but equally
vulnerable and exposed to the debilitating impacts of climate change,
particularly the rise in global sea level. (Photo: Access Gambia)|
From: Nfamara K Dampha (PhD Candidate)
University of Minnesota, U.S.A.
To: Your Excellency Adama Barrow
President of the Republic of The Gambia
CC: Secretary General, Cabinet Ministers, National Assembly Members & Gambian People
Date: July 29, 2017
Congratulations to Your Excellency, Adama Barrow, on your victory as the democratically elected President of Gambia in the December 1st elections of 2016..
Your Excellency, today, I write with a mixed feeling of optimism and fear. Our smiling coast-The Gambia is not just economically poor and highly indebted but equally vulnerable and exposed to the debilitating impacts of climate change, particularly the rise in global sea level. The country's vulnerability and exposure to climate hazards is partially due to its geographic location and climatic conditions, but also largely attributable to its poor socioeconomic conditions, lack of resilient infrastructure, inadequate institutional capacity, lack of social safety nets, rapid population growth, and other geomorphological hazards such as coastal erosion and urban flooding. Studies have indicated that The Gambia's climate hazards mainly included but not limited to rise in temperatures, precipitations, and sea levels (Jallow et al. 1996; UNDP, 2012; Drammeh, 2013). Exposure to these hazards increase our vulnerability and risk to severe droughts, extreme floods and storms, massive coastal erosion, frequent bushfires, and increasingly warmer days and nights (Jallow et al. 1996; IPCC's AR5, 2014).
Your Excellency, I wish to bring to your kind attention that the irreversible rise in global sea level would lead to the city of Banjul being lost/drown/sunk by 2100, under a Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenario 8.5 (Business As Usual (BAU) scenario) (IPCC's AR5, 2014). Banjul is the central nerve center for economic growth and development in The Gambia. The city accommodates majority of key government institutions including Your Excellency's esteem office, the State House. Unfortunately, without a much aggressive climate change adaptation strategy, The Gambia as a nation will be ineluctable from becoming a 'failed state' based on my presumption that where institutions vanish, the nation is but doomed! May Allah guide and protect our beloved nation. Ameen! قد الله دليل وحماية أمة الحبيب
Why Invest to Save Banjul & Environs Now!
Your Excellency, the small beautiful island of Banjul has a total land area of 2,200 km2 with 31,301 inhabitants (GBOS, 2013), where more than 75% of key government ministries are located. As a capital city, Banjul symbolizes the country's rich culture and history, owing to its colonial heritage. Other important landmarks there included but not limited to; the State House, the newly built National Assembly, the country's biggest hospital, major roads, hotels, schools, a major trading center, seaport, fisheries center, cemeteries, etc. Banjul to Cape Point coastal zone has been an economic landmark and a tourist destination for many decades in The Gambia (Jallow et al. 1996). The geomorphological features of Banjul according to Jallow et al. (1996) showed that, Banjul is built on low-lying, erodible sediments making it is prone to coastal erosion and city inundation. Jallow et al. (1996) observed significant eroded area between Banjul Cemeteries and the Mile 2 Central Prison. They identified structural damage as a growing threat since 1996.
Your Excellency, more than 51% of the country's total population resides in our rapidly growing urban areas. Urban geomorphology in these areas are highly vulnerable to not just the impacts of sea level rise but extreme precipitations often leading to catastrophic urban flooding, structural damage, and loss of lives. These areas also lack resilient climate infrastructures such as road, bridges, drains, coastal facilities.
Your Excellency, globally, nearly 20 centimeters (8 inches) and 5 centimeters (2 inches) of sea-level rise have occurred since the beginning of the 20th century and from the past 20 years respectively (Viñas & Rasmussen, 2015). With more than 90% confidence, the scientific community predicted that by the end this century, global average sea-level rise would be between 0.76m (30 inches) to 1.98m (78 inches) from best case to worst-case scenarios respectively (Lausche, 2009). More specifically, Brown et al (2011) predicted "a sea level rise of 0.13m in 2025, 0.35m in 2050, 0.72m in 2075 and 1.23m in 2100" (Drammeh, 2013. p41).
Your Excellency, today, nearly 30% of land in The Gambia is at or below sea level, 50% is under 20m above sea level, and about 10-20% of land area is seasonally flooded (The Gambia- NAP, 2015). Jallow et al. (1996) predicted that with 1.0m rise in sea level, the city of Banjul would be lost by the end of this century, as greater part of the city is less than 1.0m above mean sea level rise scenario.
Sea Level Rise Impact Assessment
Your Excellency, based on Jallow et al. (1996) projections, everything located in Banjul would be lost and damaged by 2100. The study estimated D1, 950 billion Dalasi (US$217 million), as cost of damage to public and private lands and properties between Banjul and Kololi Beach Hotel due to 1.0m rise in sea level. This is equivalent to nearly 38% of the country's current GDP, in 2016 dollars. Under the RCP 8.5 scenario, nearly 60% of mangrove forests, 33% of swamps area, and 20% of potential rice fields would be inundated by 2100 (The Gambia- NAP, 2015). In response to 1.0m rise in sea level, Jallow et al (1996) projected a total land loss of 92,320,000.0 m2 along the "open coastal zone" of the country. In addition, salinity would continue to affect rice fields and groundwater aquifers. Significant economic contributions from agriculture, fisheries, and tourism would be severely affected (Drammeh, 2013).
Climate-Smart Policies Assessment
Your Excellency, as The Gambia continues to aim for economic growth and industrialization, the former government had committed to following a low-carbon development pathway as stated in the country's Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to the Paris Climate Agreement (INDC, 2015). Current climate-smart policies largely focus on: strengthening national level capacity to plan, mitigate, and respond to the adverse impacts of climate change on coastal areas"; maximizing fish yields, protecting fish and other aquatic organisms, and adapting to sea level rise impacts; reducing disaster risk; and calling for grassroots involvement in environmental management and development.
Proposed Adaptation & Mitigation Targets & Strategies (Start Immediately)
1. By 2020, a comprehensive Public Land Management Policy and a Comprehensive Migration Policy should be developed
2. By 2025, reduce urban area's vulnerability to climate hazards by 50% from 2015 level
3. Invest heavily in building climate-resilient communities and public infrastructures
a) Develop a comprehensive Migration policy and plan for relocating future residents in Banjul to other areas.
b) Start developing national strategic plans for decentralization of government institutions, industry, and migration of residents from Banjul
c) Construct climate resilient public facilities and infrastructures such as roads, bridges, hotels, etc.
d) Provide environmental and climate change education and share climate information with stakeholders.
e) Develop a comprehensive Public Land policy, which would address the current controversial nature of public land management and allocation (Bensouda et al. 2013).
Proposed Medium-Term Adaptation Strategies (By 2050)
1. By 2050, at least 50% of government institutions and residents should be relocated from Banjul.
2. Effective and efficient transportation systems should be available across the country.
3. More resilient regional cities, communities, and major public infrastructures should be built around the country.
1. Start developing a second capital city for the Gambia
2. Decentralize government institutions & residents from Banjul to newly built/developed areas, which would to be decided by Gambian people
3. Mobilize resources to invest in "hard engineering solutions" such as building of sheet piles, seawalls, revetments to protect Banjul before 2050.
Proposed Long-Term Targets (By 2100)
1. By 2100, all government institutions, industries, private properties, and the entire population in Banjul should be relocated elsewhere.
2. By, 2100, The Gambia should be a highly developed and industrialized nation.
3. By 2100, The Gambia should be a carbon free economy where 100% of its energy supply comes from renewable energy sources.
1. Transfer all public and private institutions from Banjul to the newly built capital city of The Gambia
Your Excellency, I am aware that The Gambia's climate policy implementation is currently constrained by; inadequate financial and human resources, lack of advanced innovative solutions, and weak institutional coordination due to conflicting mandates, often leading to a dysfunctional bureaucratic system (Drammeh, 2013). Other feasibility challenges might be related to land-use conflict, migration of government officials to the countryside, building of public infrastructures and recreational facilities such as schools, major hospitals, roads, resistance from current city residents including emotional and psychological distress.
Your Excellency, to successfully implement the proposed adaptation plans, your government needs to encourage and invest into climate education and research. As a doctorate degree (PhD) candidate studying climate change adaptation at the University of Minnesota in the United States, I intend to spend at least 2years visiting The Gambia to discuss and collect data and get feedback from all stakeholders (government officials, private individuals, and local community members) around the country about the economic, social, political, and environmental costs and benefits of taking immediate, short, medium, and long-term strategies /mechanisms for minimizing the damage and rescuing the city, its residents, and institutions from extreme precipitations and sea level rise impacts. The costs and benefits of taking a more aggressive remedy will be compared to Business as Usual (BAU) scenario. This is simply the costs and benefits of action and inaction as far as climate change policy interventions are concerned in The Gambia. The one with a positive net present value will be reported to inform national climate change and development policies.
The study aims to recommend whether The Gambia should start thinking about designing and developing a second Capital City. If so, where should it be located? How can we pay for it? Will the present generation sacrifice to pay the present costs of climate actions for the benefit of generations yet unborn? If otherwise concluded, what should the country do to adapt to the irreversible impacts of sea level rise and extreme precipitations? Who will be pay the cost and who will yield the benefit?
In conclusion, this study is anticipated to enhance political and institutional support, promote mobilization of local resources, and strengthen international cooperation for climate financing in The Gambia. Based on article 4 of UNFCCC, 1992, the international climate community is committed to supporting The Gambia's adaptation strategies in addressing current and future impacts of climate change including sea level rise. It would also recommend potential sources of climate change adaptation financing around the world.
Nfamara K. Dampha
PhD Candidate (Climate Change Economics and Policy)
PhD Candidate (Climate Change Economics and Policy)
Executive Director, Household Disaster Resilience Project (HELP-Gambia, an NGO)
Graduate Research Assistant-Natural Capital Project
Graduate Research Assistant-Natural Capital Project
Department of Applied Economics
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities