By Cooper Inveen and Ngouda Dione
DAKAR (Reuters) – Suspended from the shadowy cliffs that dominate Africa’s westernmost coastline, a team of Senegalese mountaineers are looking for footholds they say are disappearing.
Climbing falls behind wrestling, football and surfing as beloved Senegalese pastimes, but it has brought together a small community of locals and expats who say their sport is under threat.
The problem: Coastal erosion caused by a massive construction boom in the capital Dakar, where luxury hotels and condominiums are being built near a once untouched shoreline, eating away at the land and eroding climbing routes well. worn.
Pieces of hard cliff quickly turn into scree slopes; the points of support and the places to lock a rope are lost.
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“It’s a bit sad, because it’s really a place where you can get rid of all the stress of Dakar, all the noise and everything,” said Abasse Wane, who climbs the cliffs at the top. above the Mamelles beach in Dakar for several years.
Waiting at the top after each climb is no longer a clean park with a pleasant view of the Mamelles lighthouse in Dakar which, for 150 years, has kept ships away from the reef below. Nowadays it’s a dusty building site littered with medical waste from a nearby hospital.
“It is a beautiful place to climb, and the opportunity for Senegalese climbers to be seenâ¦ from the cliff.
Erosion costs the Senegalese government more than $ 537 million per year, mostly due to the loss of high-value urban land, according to a 2019 World Bank study.
This is more than double what Benin loses, despite having the worst coastal erosion in the region in terms of the volume of land lost.
Geologist Pape Goumbo Lo, who heads Senegal’s national scientific research institute, fears that if something is not done soon, the cliffs and lighthouse could collapse into the sea.
“We must protect the Udders urgently. It’s historic, it’s touristy, it’s ecological and it’s strategic.”
One recent evening, climbers found an injured falcon nestled on the side of a cliff, unable to fly. They took the bird and two weeks later it was flying again.
“This is our main goal,” said Daouda Diallo, a regular on the rock face. “To protect this area for the next generation.”
(Reporting by Cooper Inveen and Ngouda Dione; Editing by Edward McAllister and Richard Pullin)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.