Tunisia is restoring its coastlines, one beach at a time

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A project is under way to restore and protect the Tunisian coastline.
A project is under way to restore and protect the Tunisian coastline.
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  • Climate impacts have long threatened Tunisia's Mediterranean coastline, which spans over 1000 kilometres.
  • Some residents off the coast have been forced to leave their homes as they risked being submerged under water.
  • A project is under way to restore and protect Tunisia's coastline.
  • For climate change news and analysis, go to News24 Climate Future.

A few years ago, Farid Saidani, a Hamman Chott resident in Ben Arous Governorate, about 20 kilometres South of Tunis, had to abandon his home due to coastal erosion and rising sea levels that threatened to submerge his house.

A similar fate befell hundreds of other residential areas, most of which housed hotel workers like himself.

 "I used to work at a tourist restaurant on the beach. The waves became so high we were forced to leave," he explained.

Today, Saidani and his colleagues have another chance to live and work along the coastline after the Tunisian Coastal Protection Agency intervened.  

"Life is back since the coastal protection agency put protective structures," he said.

Adverse effects of climate change, especially rising sea levels, have long threatened Tunisia's Mediterranean coastline, which spans over 1 000 kilometres.

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But, the protection measures implemented by the agency are now bearing fruit.

Slah Chtioui, the Regional Director of the agency, explained how the coastline relied on breakwaters before the programme, an approach that was not effective.

However, "the new project respects the environment. It spreads 7 kilometres, nourishes the beach, allowing fishermen, residents and people who live near the sea to return," he explained.

The agency has used fences made from pinewood to stabilise the dunes, planted protecting vegetation, built rubber mound sea walls, and installed sand fencing for sand-trapping.

As Mohamed Torki, Tunisia's Mediterranean Coastline Engineer, explained, the project has protected Tunisia's coastal landscape and littoral, alleviating coastal erosion that threatened populations along the coastline.

"The first phase of the project started in 2013 followed by the second phase in 2015. The project is still under execution," he said.

With the capacity to offer protection to the coastline for decades, the structures have been installed in five different towns along the coastline, including Raf Raf, Kerenah, Northern Sousse, Rades and Slimane.

From residents to businesses, the positive feedback from locals evidences the coastline's impact on the community.

"We do not impose anything on the population. The Tunisian Coastal Protection Agency discusses all these phases and the details of the projects with the representatives of the population…before approving any step," Torki explained.

The agency is not leaving anything to chance and is integrating other climate-smart projects and programmes to ensure more protection of the coastline communities.

READ | Sinking villages look to nature to help Indonesia restore mangroves

Torki disclosed that the agency seeks to use "hydraulic dredgers to dredge sand from the deep areas in the Mediterranean Sea and use it or push it back to the coastline", an approach already applied in other countries and is therefore viable.

Just like Saidani, Sadak Ayari, a fisherman and resident of Hammam Chott, admits the project has positively influenced fishing prospects since they can now find a range of fish species, including rare kinds such as octopuses.

"The system put in place by the engineers is revolutionary because it protects the coast and allows different marine species to live and thrive," he said.

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