A Nigerian minister recently told reporters, “We are becoming the biggest victim of climate change because the rise in sea level is reducing [home] slopes, [making] houses and dwelling structures vulnerable.”
A 2015 study from the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that a rise in sea level of 2 meters (6.5 feet) will lead to the sea covering 90 percent of Niger’s land area. The country’s demographic and environmental projections point to a decline in global sea levels occurring within the next 250 years. According to a U.N. Environment report, the world’s seas are rising roughly 2.6 millimeters per year.
Structures in communities could be washed away by the rising waters. The Associated Press reports that a surge of evacuees are already arriving to already overpopulated camps and there are plans to build the same large ones in places such as Maiduguri, the capital of the Borno state, home to more than 3 million people.
Geographic anthropologist Damian Bisengwa studied the Niger River basin when the first effective satellite imagery became available to begin surveying the situation. In an op-ed for Global News, Bisengwa explains how “geographic and political factors, and the failure of successive administrations in Nigeria to invest in conservation and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, caused the current crisis.”
According to the report, “80 percent of the population live in areas vulnerable to flooding, and farming livelihoods, along with coastal farmlands, are under serious threat.” The Niger River basin is also an area of endemic flooding caused by unpredictable yearly rainfall, as indicated by map of dangerous flood sites from the Environmental Protection Agency.