The Ivorian resort where the ocean washes away livelihoods

STORY: Every week Habib Hassan Nassar has to defend his beachfront hotel in Ivory Coast against an attacker that threatens to destroy his livelihood.

His assailant is the rising sea that is eroding this coastal resort.

“If I hadn’t made this protection I can assure you that; you see there the two coconut trees with the statue in red next to the little boy? The sea would be beyond that, so that means that everything here would be washed away by the waves, which means that I would have nothing: no space, no swimming pool, the hotel would be closed.”

Nassar says that when he first came to Assinie as a child it would take five minutes to walk to the shoreline.

Now he has to spend around $1,640 a week to buy truckloads of sand and hire workers to pour it into bags and shore up the hotel’s defenses.

Ivory Coast’s National Coastal Environment Management Program says the national coastal erosion rate averages between 0.5 and 3 meters a year.

Assinie, it says, is of particular concern.

That’s due to the high rate of beach loss and its importance, through tourism, as an economic hub.

Nassar says at this time of year, the sand should be returning to the beach – but that it hasn’t yet happened.

“So we’re behind schedule, but the longer we delay, the more the sea will attack us and we’ll have to fight back. But at some point we won’t be able to — it’s the ocean. Either we put in the resources we don’t have, or we’ll have to put up with it.”

This problem is not unique to Ivory Coast.

U.N. climate experts have warned that, without adaptation, damages from sea level rise could cost 12 large coastal cities in Africa up to $86.5 billion by 2050.

Further afield, Hawaii’s highest court ruled at the end of October that a lawsuit by Honolulu against fossil fuel companies including Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Shell could go ahead to trial.

It accuses them of deceiving the public about climate change and cited damages from issues such as sea level rise.

Assinie’s vulnerability was underscored in August.

A series of oversized waves pummeled the shore – striking higher than ever before.

Thanks to his sandbags, Nassar’s hotel remained intact.

But others were not as lucky.

Standing in the ruins of his home, 60-year-old Alex Messan Kouassi says the sea has taken everything away.

And he asks” “What am I going to do now?”

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