Africa's 'Venice' in Peril

Two-thirds of Saint-Louis residents face flood risk
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2013 9:40 AM CDT
Will Climate Change Destroy Senegal's 'Venice'?
People and animals mingle on a fishing beach on the Atlantic Ocean, in Saint-Louis, Senegal, Sunday, May 19, 2013.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

It's called the "Venice of Africa": Saint-Louis, Senegal, is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Senegal River, and the water has long been central to its economy. But now, like its Italian namesake, it's facing disaster from rising water levels. Some two-thirds of the city's population of 250,000 faces a flooding risk, AFP reports; a river channel 13 feet across in 2003 is now more than a mile wide. "If things keep going the way they are, the whole city of Saint-Louis will have to be moved," says the city's mayor.

A UN rep labeled Saint-Louis the African city "most threatened by rising sea levels" in 2008. Already, parts of the city are gone, and more heavy rain is due within weeks. Thanks to erosion, "the village of Doun Baba Dieye has completely disappeared and villages to the south are progressively more threatened." A former resident describes losing his home, with water entering his bedroom as he slept. "Now I cannot teach my children what my ancestors taught me—knowledge of the sea, fishing, fauna and flora." The city's hope is to use the water "as a unique selling point and fully integrate it in ... urban planning," says the UN, "similar to what the Venetians did a long time ago." (Read more Senegal stories.)

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