A bold step in protecting African coastline

Eritrea, an east African nation bordering Ethiopia, announced Monday a plan to protect its entire coastline. This is the first nation in the world to make such a bold step towards environmental protection. Eritrea will preserve 837 miles of mainland coast and 1,209 miles of coast around 350 islands.

Currently, Eritrea’s dry coastal plains are largely undeveloped, except for two large cities including its capital, Asmara. The Eritrea Coastal Marine and Island Biodiversity Conservation Project (ECMIB) will create a 330-foot buffer along the coast protecting against future development. Inland areas that are part of the Red Sea watershed will be preserved, and places of ecological importance will be placed under permanent protection as national parks and reserves.

Solving environmental problems is typically a luxury developing nations cannot afford. The little revenue their government generates must be used for economic development and building infrastructure. Still, developed nations, such as the US, continue to learn that it is more cost effective to prevent environmental problems than to fix them. Even more difficult to measure on an economic scale is the cost of ecosystem services, such as clean water. Cities spend billions dollars on water treatment facilities to perform a function that a healthy ecosystem would provide for free. By protecting their coastline and watersheds, Eritrea is protecting against environmental disasters, such as flooding, and guaranteeing that many ecological services will be maintained.

Eritrea is plagued with many of the typical problems of developing nations in east Africa. After a 32-year war of independence from Ethiopia, which ended in 1993, they fought with Yemen and again with Ethiopia. Today there is peace, but it is tenuous. The boarder dispute that ignited its most recent fighting with Ethiopia is still unresolved. These issues are compounded by other problems. Two-thirds of the population needs government assistance to provide enough food for their family. Any economic progress is slowed due to the large proportion of Eritreans who are in the army, rather than the workforce.

Still, with a host of social and economic problems, Eritrea has made an unprecedented step towards environmental protection. They realize that their current problems will only worsen with continued ecological degradation. Severe droughts and other natural disasters caused famine and economic decline in east Africa between 1974 and 1984. Protecting the Eritrean coastline will protect more than just the environment. It is a cost-effective and necessary effort to protect the country and region.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Senelibona's picture
Senelibona says:

Dear Rebecca of 13th December 2006
I read your sarcastic but still provocative comment on the introduction of Coastal area development and enviornmental protection schemes covering almost 1,209 miles of Sovereign Eritrea.
"Solving environmental problems is typically a luxury developing nations cannot afford" ! What an approach? and demoralizing ( if not terrorizing) phrase to start with!!!
Yes ! Eritrea became a Sovereign State during May 1993 . One can perceive that it is infant State. However, its current Domestic development activities and International status reflect the maturity of its essence!! whose population have and are contributing towards the modernization process of Global coexistance in Peace and tranquility.
Anything including the USA initially walked from a Paper work ! and managed to develop to the current level of sophistication ! The Alphabets started with A and reached Z.
Why did you start with Z while Eritrea did not even proclaim its execellent intent beyond a Semina is really a quiz that should be zipped...
The Red sea State- Eritrea has started good by notifying its intent to legalize its more than 1,300 miles coastal enviornment.
May be who knows Eritrea and the Sudan may establish a direct Railway link from Kassala to Massawa and amplify the importance of enviornment control in good time !
Maybe who knows Eritrea and Yemen have already finalized their joint venture fishing Industry to feed you so called Developed Market...
Maybe who knows the Ethiopia and Eritrea conflict that is so far hijacked by USA and Security Council of UN shall be surprisingly resolved by a simple declaration of "OK" from that PM of Ethiopia?
Eritrea! Go ahead and continua with whatever good you have started activating stabilize the Red Sea and your Coastal area...
Happy New Year and best of Holiday season....

posted on Thu, 12/14/2006 - 2:08am
Rebecca's picture
Rebecca says:

The story was not meant to be sarcastic or demoralizing. I think it is wonderful that Eritrea is preserving its coastline. They should be commended and emulated by other countries. It shows that the government and citizens are forward thinking and clearly on a path to success. Environmental problems, ranging from global issues such as climate change to local problems with flooding or erosion, will be some of the biggest challenges to all countries in the 21st century. Meeting these issues head on is the best strategy from an economic and environmental perspective.

posted on Thu, 12/14/2006 - 4:44pm
G's picture
G says:

Rebecca, thanks for bringing light to this story. Typically, the only time a country from the Horn of Africa (or in any part of Africa for that matter) is mentioned in the news is when people are starving of killing each other. While there is plenty of that going on, there are some dramatic development initiatives also taking place. Eritrea is a unique country in its approach to development. Another project taking place along the coast is the use of saltwater for farming and the potential for large scale renewable energy production is another possibility.

posted on Sun, 12/17/2006 - 2:32pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think that we shouldn't pay to save it because whats the point its still going to fade away

posted on Mon, 11/10/2008 - 11:15am

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