Yelibuya is a town in Sierra Leone, sitting between Freetown, the capital and a neighbouring Guinea Conakry town. It is one of Africa’s important towns as it is the last stop on the historic trade route between the two countries.
The bustling town is currently under threat of being lost into the waters of Kolenté River (also called Great Scarcies), one of Sierra Leone’s biggest rivers that empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
According to a report by Aljazeera, the town is sinking because of mangrove deforestation, coastal degradation and rising sea levels. The water keeps on increasing, destroying houses in the town and forcing the inhabitants to built new houses only for them to be damaged by the water all over again.
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The rising waters have also forced the town to move the most vital structures, the clinic and the chief’s house, which were sitting at the edge of the ocean further inland.
It is estimated that the water has encroached 300 metres into the town for the last 30 years and the lack of official government data is not making things easy to determine the size of land under water. This has however not stopped individuals from making estimates that the town will be completely submerged in the next 20 years.
Not many inhabitants are ready to leave Yelibuya because of their families and businesses. Others have already packed their belongings and have moved to Freetown.
The flooding situation is even made worse by climate change, which caused the devastating landslide in 2017 that saw the death of more than 1,000 people.
At the moment, the mangrove forest is the only barrier between the town and the rising water levels.
Yelibuya is not the only African town under threat of sinking. Scientists said that some part of Kenya’s coastal town of Mombasa would sink into the Indian Ocean in 20 years. Salinity will increase, making the water unfit for human consumption and the soils to salty to sustain agriculture.