Africa's 'resilient cities' plan for the future
Updated 9:02 PM ET, Wed February 22, 2017
(CNN)The effects of climate change may not be apparent in some parts of the world just yet.
But in Dakar, the battle against nature has already begun, with coastal erosion wreaking havoc on the city's peninsula that stretches into the Atlantic — forcing people to move out of their homes and ruining its long, sandy beaches.
By 2080, more than 300 buildings and 60 percent of its beaches could be gone, according to a 2013 report.
But now, the Senegalese capital of some 2.5 million people is fighting back, with a master plan for tackling the challenges brought on by a changing climate and growing population.
As one of the world's 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) — a project by the Rockefeller Foundation which lists resilient world cities tackling everything from rising sea levels and coastal erosion to housing and energy challenges — Dakar is the first of eleven African cities to introduce a so-called resilience strategy, a key milestone in the program.
"Africa is one of the front lines in terms of urbanization globally. People are moving out of the villages and into the cities at a pace unprecedented in history," says Michael Berkowitz, President, 100RC.
The aim is to provide a model for what a new, more resilient urbanization might look like.
"A sort of global revolution in the way we think about urbanization," Berkowitz says.
The Rockefeller Foundation has allocated $164 million to the program, which will fund a chief resilience officer for each city to draw up a resilience plan and provide support and a network of expertise.
Dakar's resilience challenge
"Climate change is our biggest threat," says Dakar's chief resilience officer Antoine Faye. He fears that rising sea levels and coastal erosion, which has been linked to climate change, could obliterate the city's tourism industry.
"We have a nice beach with hotels, but these will disappear and there will be no tourists left," Faye adds.
Also residential houses have been destroyed, partly due to a change in rain patterns which has resulted in flash floods over the past three years, says Faye. "We see this every day."
The excess water has dangerous knock-on effects. "You have more mosquitoes. We've tried to eradicate malaria, but we're losing the fight now."
The resilience plan looks at waste management, improving public transport and reinventing the green spaces which have fallen victim to urbanization.
"Climate change is likely to change rain patterns. Sometimes there will be more rain, leading to flooding, or there will be less rain leading to drought and heat," Berkowitz says.
"Green spaces help moderate those impacts by absorbing rainwater — like the city's sponge — and they keep the temperatures more moderate in the hottest, driest months."
Nigeria's largest city and cultural capital was admitted to the program, at a ceremony in February this year.
Coastal flooding from storm surges has forced the relocation of businesses and resorts from Victoria island — a popular tourist spot. Meanwhile, rising sea levels and coastal erosion in other areas have meant decline in water quality, according to 100RC.
The past 40 years has transformed the city, infamous for its heavy traffic and poor air quality.
"It's one of the biggest cities in the world, and therefore incredibly complex," Berkowitz says.
Nigeria's population of 187 million is expected to double by 2050, making it the fourth most populous country in the world — with the world population predicted to hit the 10 billion mark in 2053.
In an attempt to take control of the city's growth, Lagos will now draft its resilience plan, tailor made to the city's challenges.
Another nine countries across the continent made the final list, each with their own unique stresses and strains.
With a rich history that whispers of mummies and pharaohs, Luxor — once the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes — is aspiring to modernize the city and tackle unemployment. With the aim of reviving tourism and diversifying the economy, the government plans to turn the city into a massive open air museum. And with frequent, long lasting power cuts, the aging infrastructure will need an upgrade.