Abidjan - Large scale reforestation and sound environmental management could support the recovery of Côte d'Ivoire's forest cover, which now forms just 3 per cent of the country's national territory and continues to decrease rapidly, according to UNEP's Côte d'Ivoire Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment.
Côte d'Ivoire's forests have global significant biodiversity value and huge potential for sustainable economic growth. However, the conflict had a significant impact on the forest sector. Satellite data suggests a reduction of approximately 660,000 ha of closed canopy forest cover of classified forests between 2000 and 2013.
The Ébrié Lagoon, the largest lagoon system in West Africa, is highly polluted with solid and liquid urban waste from Abidjan. Yet the lagoon's environmental recovery could stimulate economic revival, providing opportunities for fishing, leisure, transport and tourism that are at present inconceivable.
The Côte d'Ivoire Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment (PCEA) is the product of years of work and successful collaboration between UNEP and the Government of Côte d'Ivoire.
UNEP's analysis spanned a wide range of environmental issues known to be affected by conflict, such as national parks, unplanned urban expansion, the mining sector, the environmental degradation of Ébrié Lagoon, and the risk of oil spill along the country's coastline.
The assessment emphasises that Côte d'Ivoire has abundant natural resources, from forests to mineral reserves. The conflict and political turmoil that marked the country placed an unprecedented strain on the country's forests and fertile land, with deforestation and environmental degradation taking place at unparalleled rates.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, emphasized the importance of effective natural resource management on the path towards sustainable development and post conflict recovery: "As Côte d'Ivoire moves towards reconciliation and sustainable development, sound management of the country's natural wealth will be critical for inclusive economic growth, social cohesion and political stability."
"Focusing on critical issues such as forestry, the system of national parks, urban expansion challenges in Abidjan, and the Ébrié Lagoon, this report offers a series of policy interventions to help reshape the country's environmental situation and outlines how investments in ecological restoration can help support the country's economic recovery".
The report offers a positive look to the future. The report's recommendations underline that the environmental degradation of Ébrié Lagoon and the deforestation trends are both reversible. Furthermore, sectors such as mining offer new prospects for the country's economy, if managed wisely and sustainably.
Côte d'Ivoire's environmental problems are complex and will require broad and coordinated actions. In addition to technical recommendations, the report makes several strategic overarching recommendations.
- Deforestation is ongoing and severe in Côte d'Ivoire. Forest cover, including that of classified forests, continues to decrease rapidly. If the current trend is not slowed, halted and then reversed, in the near future the country's forests will no longer be sufficient to fulfil their ecosystem or economic functions.
- Deforestation in Côte d'Ivoire is caused by conversion into agricultural land, through over-exploitation of forests for timber and by settlements in forested areas.
- All national parks have been affected by the conflict, although to different extents. Impacts on three major national parks were assessed: Comoé National Park, Tai National Park and Marahoué National Park. The assessment found that, in particular, Marahoué National Park has been damaged to such an extent that without management the park will turn into secondary forest with poor biodiversity, thus undeserving of national park status.
- The population of the city of Abidjan doubled during the conflict period whereas service provision stagnated or deteriorated. This has led to problems of solid waste and wastewater management within the city and in Ébrié Lagoon.
- The already-polluted Ébrié lagoon has seen further degradation due to discharging of solid, liquid and industrial waste from Abidjan and from agricultural chemicals, including pesticides, carried to the lagoon by run off. In many areas of the lagoon, pollutants were higher than the standards for healthy water bodies, posing a direct threat to biological life and the aquatic ecosystem.
- The international ports of Abidjan and San Pedro do not have facilities for the treatment of hazardous waste, yet procedures are not in place to prevent collection companies from accepting this waste in addition to non-hazardous solid waste from ships.
- Insecurity has constrained investment in the industrial mining sector, while artisanal mining is flourishing. Whilst the individual environmental effect of artisanal mining sites is not significant, the report highlighted that human safety is of greater concern, due to high risk of mine shafts collapsing and the use of mercury for extracting gold.
- A significant expansion in oil production in the Gulf of Guinea, including in Côte d'Ivoire waters, has notably increased the risk of an oil spill that could affect the country. At the same time the preparedness of the country to deal with a major oil spill has suffered through the conflict period. As the coastline is home to a significant proportion of Côte d'Ivoire's economy and population, updating the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and Environmental Sensitivity Index map will be of paramount importance.
- Institutional and ministerial roles and responsibilities relating to the environment are sometimes overlapping. Coordination difficulties, therefore, add to environmental challenges already present.
Côte d'Ivoire's Minister of Environment, Urban Salubrity and Sustainable Development, Dr Rémi Allah-Kouadio, emphasised the value of the report: "the essence of the report lies in a series of realistic recommendations intended for Ivoiran policymakers and particularly the strong correlations between the measures to be taken to sustainably manage our environment and the opportunities available to us to transform our country into an emerging country by 2020, by taking the environment into account."
He reiterated the commitment of the Government of Côte d'Ivoire to implement the report's recommendations as part of the drive towards on-going socio-economic development. He also noted the quality of the relations between UNEP and Côte d'Ivoire in light of this assessment and the establishment of a new UNEP Sub-Regional Office for West Africa, based in Abidjan.
Notes to Editors
The Côte d'Ivoire Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment is available online at unep.org/cotedivoire. All online materials related to UNEP's work in Côte d'Ivoire are available in both French and English.
The full report includes details of the methodology used in the assessment, including how the UNEP team carried out their work, where samples were taken and the findings that they made.
The assessment was conducted at the request of the Government of Côte d'Ivoire. UNEP remains committed to supporting the Government of Côte d'Ivoire in moving ahead with the report's recommendations and assisting the country in charting a path towards sustainable economic growth.
For more information, please contact:
Shereen Zorba, Head, News and Media, UNEP on Tel. +254 788526000 or [email protected]
Sophie Brown, UNEP Communications Advisor, Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch on +41 22 917 88 39 or [email protected]