The Gambia is a small strip of low-lying land in west Africa along both banks of the river from which it takes its name. As one of the world’s poorest and least-developed countries, it is suffering the effects of a climate crisis it did very little to cause. On an island jutting out into the Atlantic, less than a metre above sea level, Banjul, its capital city, is particularly exposed.
In a worst-case scenario, envisaged by experts in a 2020 survey, global heating of 4.5C above pre-industrial levels could mean a sea level rise of between 0.6 and 1.3 metres by 2100. That would be enough to inundate most or all of Banjul.
Many experts fear the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s forecast of a 1.1-metre rise is optimistic. In either scenario, one thing is clear: the city is in serious jeopardy. As signposts by the road state: “There is no planet B. Protect Banjul.”
Nfamara Dampha, a Gambian research consultant at the World Bank, wants plans drawn up to move the country’s administrative capital away from the coast. “The option of having an administrative capital elsewhere is imperative, in my opinion.” Dampha believes that, with the National Assembly, central bank, biggest hospital, seaport and many schools, the city is too big – in administrative terms – to be allowed to fail. “It’s a capital asset of the country,” he says. “If it falls or is severely impacted, the economy will be on the verge of collapse.”