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Nyangai Island’s Battle Against Coastal Erosion: A Story of Resilience and Loss

Erosion of Nyangai Island

Where is Nyangai?

Nyangai, a once vibrant tropical island off Sierra Leone’s coast, is now rapidly disappearing due to coastal erosion. The island has deteriorated drastically in the past decade. Land erosion, along with the increasingly haphazard weather and rising levels of the ocean, have forced most of the residents from here to run away, with a very small population left to survive the ordeal.

In 2023, a decade after the first visit, Nyangai appears almost unrecognizable. Satellite images reveal a divided island, with entire villages swallowed by the encroaching sea. Residents like Tewoh Koroma, who lost her home to flooding, express despair as they witness their island vanish before their eyes.

Is it a widepsread phenomenon?

Coastal erosion is not unique to Nyangai; similar scenes unfold along Sierra Leone’s coastline. Lakka and Plantain Island are also grappling with the destructive forces of the ocean, prompting widespread displacement and loss. Despite government acknowledgment of the problem, limited resources and data hinder effective intervention. Mangrove restoration efforts have yielded little success, leaving communities vulnerable and unsupported.

The resilience of Nyangai’s inhabitants is evident in their attempts to combat erosion with makeshift levees and mangrove planting. Though they are strong, the intensity of the sea tends to break them. Many of them are thinking of moving to the mainland, thus leaving their ancestral homes with a heavy heart.

The impact is life-threatening

The damages are visible and palpable, symbolized by the lost jobs, cultural traditions and a divided society. The lively parties and dances have stopped, to be replaced with a sense of malaise and despair. As Hasan Kargbo, the harbor master, reflects on Nyangai’s plight, he expresses love for the island but acknowledges its inevitable disappearance.

Nyandai’s life story is symbolic of the expediency of climate solution and the availing of support for the poor dwellers of the coasts. The lack of ability to deal with this issue immediately and adequately may be the reason for jeopardizing many lives and defenses on the coasts. And the future of Nyangai may remain uncertain. However, as the residents struggle to come to terms with reality, they also have to contend that they have lost their land to the sea.

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