In Saint-Louis, the consequences of climate crisis are tangible: thousands of people uprooted; houses destroyed; hundreds of children attending classes in the evening instead of in the morning because their school has been swept into the ocean. The World Bank, which recently allotted €24m (£20m) to combat the effects of climate change in Saint-Louis, estimates that 10,000 people in the city are either already displaced or live within 20 metres of the waterline, the high-risk zone.
And this is just the beginning. According to a study commissioned by the Senegalese government, 80% of Saint-Louis territory will be at risk of flooding by 2080, and 150,000 people will have to relocate. Most of west Africa’s coastal cities, home to 105 million people, face a similar threat.
He is referring to an engineering mistake, which contributed to the deterioration of the Langue de Barbarie. In 2003, heavy rainfall caused the Senegal river to rise rapidly, putting Saint-Louis at risk of flooding. As a quick fix, local government dug a four-metre-wide breach, or canal, cutting through the Langue de Barbarie. The effect has been the opposite of the one intended. Although at first the river level dropped, the breach quickly started to expand. It is now 6km wide and has cut off part of the peninsula, turning it into an island – and flooding Doun Baba Dieye.
It’s not actually about climate change, is it? It’s about an engineered change in currents and water flow wiping out a sandbank.