Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Everyone these days knows about the economic and socio-cultural importance of coastal and marine ecosystems. But in most of Africa, they are under constant attack as industry develops and unthinking use of natural resources increases. In Cameroon, for example, the coast and sea are afflicted by serious ecological problems. Such areas are much in demand because of the copious natural riches they contain, so there are environmental conflicts over the gathering and use of resources such as fish, oil, minerals, timber and farm products. Land disputes are especially acute in port cities such as Douala. The conflicts are usually limited to Cameroon itself but sometimes they spill across national borders. Disputes about maritime pollution are quite common along the coast of Cameroon. One example is the conflict, in the southwestern province, between the local population and officials of MINEF and MINEPIA over the use of chemicals by inshore fi s h e rmen. Another is between the wealthy people of the province and the oil companies, which have polluted the waters of the Rio del Rey, which are often used for domestic purposes. Then there are the ongoing battles involving local fishermen angry at low prices for their catch and the trawlers that sometimes destroy their nets. The natural resources themselves are both over-exploited and affected by many kinds of pollution.

The growth of ports also brings with it several kinds of pollution from the wharves, from ships, dredging operations and from contamination by urban sewage. The main effect of such pollution, and silt deposition, is cloudiness of the water, which reduces production of phytoplankton. The ocean floor environment is also changed by sedimentary deposits and waste material. Human health is affected too. We have some foul-smelling beaches which threaten the health of local people because they spread intestinal diseases like cholera and hepatitis. Shipping movements and related activity are also sources of pollution. About a tonne of copper ends up in the sea every year as a result of big ships repainting their hulls.

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