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Rising seas washing away Ghana's former slave forts

As sea levels rise on Ghana’s populated shores, the government mulls defense measures for its forts, castles, and communities.

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President Obama speaks to the media following his tour of the Cape Coast Castle, a former slave holding facility, in the town of Cape Coast, Ghana, in this July 2009 file photo.

Jason Reed/Reuters/File

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The ocean is starting to wash away historical slave trading forts and castles on the coast of Ghana, threatening a thriving tourist industry as well as the homes of coastal dwellers. 

The waves have already taken a toll on Ada Foah’s Fort Kongenstein, an 18th century Danish trading fort. All that remains of it are dilapidated foundations and collapsing arches hanging off of a shelf of sand. The sea has claimed the rest.

The beating taken by this smaller fort may soon be in store for the castles at Cape Coast and Osu, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, along with most of the coastal forts and key attractions for the country’s $2.1 billion tourist industry.

The forts were built by the Danish for defense and slave trading before eventually coming under the control of the British in the 19th century, and their foundations on rocky terrain affords them some protection, says scientist Kwasi Appeaning Addo, but they, too, will fall to the tides if measures are not taken. The castle at Osu, which is also the seat of government, may flood as soon as 2050, Mr. Addo says.

“Erosion is a major threat to coastal tourism,” says Addo, a lecturer in coastal science at the University of Ghana. “The foreign castles are particularly at risk.” 

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