A Race Against Time: Saving a Coastal Town from Devastation

A Race Against Time: Saving A Coastal Town From Devastation

Ayetoro, a coastal community in southern Nigeria, is currently facing the consequences of rising sea levels. This is particularly ironic, as the sea used to be located far away from the residential areas, causing difficulties for fishermen. Research conducted in the area indicates that the community is losing land to the sea at a rate of 65 meters per year.

Mayokun Iyaomolere, a researcher, was astounded by how quickly the sea had encroached upon Ayetoro. He had to navigate through waterlogged areas using pieces of wood from destroyed homes as stepping stones. Ayetoro is a low-lying coastal community in Ondo State, Nigeria, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and tranquil lagoons. Iyaomolere, who grew up nearby, was always intrigued by the drastic changes experienced by the community.

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In its earlier days, Ayetoro thrived due to its flourishing fishing industry, which brought wealth to the region. However, the discovery of oil in the community’s waters and the devastating impact of oil spills led to the decline of the fishing industry. Many fishermen were forced to migrate to other communities where fishing activities were still feasible.

Iyaomolere pursued a master’s program in Environmental Control and Management to gain more knowledge about coastal flooding. He specifically focused on studying the flood vulnerability of coastal communities in the Ilaje region, including Ayetoro. His research revealed that the community was losing land at an alarming rate of 65 meters per year, indicating high vulnerability to coastal flooding.

Armed with this evidence, Iyaomolere attempted to raise awareness by engaging with influential stakeholders. While his attempts to involve the government were unsuccessful, he found support from community leaders, such as Emmanuel Aralu, who helped him establish connections with key decision-makers.

During his research, Iyaomolere discovered a study from 1995 that warned of the risk of losing Ayetoro and its neighboring community, Awoye, due to rising sea levels. The global mean sea level has already risen by 22-24 centimeters since 1880 and could reach two meters by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled.

Ayaloro estimated Ayetoro’s elevation to be two meters above sea level during his data collection. However, recent analysis revealed that the community’s elevation level is now zero, indicating that it is at the same level as the sea. As a result, the community has lost two-thirds of its land, with the eastern region being the most affected.

Seawater intrusion in Ayetoro and neighboring communities coincided with offshore oil exploration, as it led to land subsidence and increased vulnerability to sea level rise. Although no official measurements have been conducted, Nigerian researchers have cited land subsidence rates ranging from 25 to 125mm per year in oil-producing coastal communities.

Efforts to protect the shoreline in Ayetoro have been largely unsuccessful, with two previous projects failing due to various reasons. The lack of political will and coordination among different bodies has hindered effective solutions to the issue.

Overall, the situation in Ayetoro highlights the urgent need for action to address rising sea levels and protect vulnerable coastal communities.

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