Rising tides threaten coastal Tanzanian towns
Surging Indian Ocean tides have forced hundreds of people in northeast Tanzania's Pangani District to abandon their homes, as higher seas increasingly threaten settlements along East Africa's coastline.
Several towns and villages are suffering flooding and intrusions of salt water, which are damaging property and tainting clean water supplies. Scientists and government officials attribute the problem partly to climate change, but crumbling sea defences are also to blame.
The increasing disaster threat has led government officials to urge residents to move to higher ground, and to promise to repair seawalls. But the country's key tourism industry remains at risk as rising seas and worsening storm surges erode beaches and coastal infrastructure, experts say.
In Pangani Diustrict's Buyuni village, which lies just a stone's throw from the shore, over a dozen families have abandoned their homes after they were flooded by the sea and sought refuge with friends and relatives in safer areas, according to village chairman Saleh Ali.
Fisherman Vicent Magomba, 51, is increasingly worried about the security of his family home as sea water is eroding its foundations.
"I don't have peace of mind because I do not know when the water will destroy my house completely, and I do not have money to build another one," he said.
Waves have left watermarks on the walls of most of the village's brick houses, a clear indication of the threat their occupants face.
The government has blamed the effects of climate change for the rising level of the Indian Ocean, which is disrupting life in many coastal settlements - from Pemba Tanga Bagamoyo to the country's largest city, Dar es Salaam.
"There is no doubt that sea-level rise has been inundating infrastructure, including roads and shallow water wells, in coastal towns," Teresa Huvisa, minister of state responsible for the environment, told AlertNet in a telephone interview. "This is a deepening development challenge the country is facing."
Henry Laswai, a professor of climate science at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, said human-induced climate change can directly affect sea level through a process known as thermal expansion, when warmer temperatures cause water to expand.
Other factors contributing to sea level rise include the melting of glaciers - some of the world's largest reservoirs of fresh water.
"When the temperature exceeds a particular level, glaciers and ice sheets will lose mass, as is the case with glaciers on (Tanzania's) Mount Kilimanjaro," Laswai explained.