People living in Pikine, Saint-Louis, are urging the city to stop dumping trash at their backyard. Children are at risk of getting diseases when they play here, swimming in the river is no longer possible and even the mangrove is dieing. The rainy seasons bring about hellish visions of mosquito infested lakes with floating islands of trash. The nauseatic smell never leaves. In an attempt to ease the situation even temporarily, they brought land to berry some of the plastic and relocated the dumping ground some hundreds of meters further in the west.
Aram, Petit and Babacar dream of a public space where it would be safe, green and cosy to hang around. In Pikine, one of the biggest neighbourhoods on mainland Saint-Louis, there are no green areas at all. They would also like to practise fish farming in the river in the future.
Nearly a year ago they organized a noisy sit in at the gates of the city hall but that lead to no action whatsoever. They have also taken part and organized World Cleanup Days in the area but stronger measures are needed to clean up this mass of trash and to process it somewhere. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Pikine have no other choice than to keep inhaling it into their lungs. For how many more years?
Saint-Louis is still fighting agains rising sea levels and coastal erosion. These days you see big trucks that frequently bring massive pieces of stone to the coast line with Eiffage financing a new attempt of stopping the ocean from advancing and swallowing up people’s homes. I took these photos in 2019 in connection with an exhibition in which some of my fisherman friends speak out about what is going on in their lives.
You may know that Dakar is a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the north, west and south, which gives the city much needed winds from the sea. The winds bring advantages: they keep the air clean for breathing and they also keep the mosquitoes at bay outside of the rainy season, or at least they used to. There also used to be an easy access to the sea but these days it is more and more difficult to even catch a glimpse of the ocean because the land has been taken over by private companies, ex-ministers and judges.
I would be curious to meet city planners and environmentalists and learn to understand if there are real mechanisms in place that could still save the coastline from being further exploited for private gain. Who do the coastline and the beaches belong to? Are they not a national treasure and heritage to be guarded and included in sustainable urban planning as such? Every time I am in Dakar I wonder: What will this city look like in 50 years from now and who will then have access to the sea?
Moctar Bâ,* architect and president of PERL (Plateforme pour l’Environnement et la Réappropriation du Littoral) has some answers. He is saying that the land grabbing by the private sector is destroying the coastline in Dakar and that filling the coastline with buildings will imperatively make the inland air more polluted when the winds cannot clear the air any more. He also asserts that national politics with a vision is needed urgently, with a stipulation that the land that has already been lost to private sector should be heavily taxed. Other practical measures introduced by Bâ and his associates suggest that Senegal should adapt a coastline management system similar to the Canadian and Australian models to exercise urban planning with sustainable solutions for the coastline.
One of the many posters that have been sprinkled by the roadside in Mamelles advertize: Vivez le rêve ! But whose dream are they talking about?
What will Dakar look like in 50 years from now and who will then have access to the sea? This and some other thoughts about the situation with coastline in Dakar will feature in my next documentary film that I am starting to work on. For reference, here is a cross post called Corniche – Live Your Dream from my other blog with a couple of photos from Les Mamelles, and another link to a 59 seconds long trailer for Afropolis 2021 Dakar, the film-to-come. Stay tuned!
I made a documentary about my hometown recently. In the film I am asking people to tell me about their relationship to their town, Saint-Louis, in the north of Senegal by the Mauritanian border. In its final stages of post production I came to realize that I may have chosen to shoot with mini-DV quite subconsciously: it creates a rather rough but at the same time soft view of the footage.
Truth to be told, this town is dirty.
If you have been to Saint-Louis, a town that still carries the Unesco World Heritage label, you may have wondered how it is possible that the river has become a dumping site for domestic waste. In the old days people used to give food as offerings to the river spirits but these days it is just trash, and more trash that finds its way into the river. Ngagne Dabo Ndiaye, who has traveled extensively in his life and who returned to Saint-Louis, had enough of this and has transformed the river side into a small oasis, right next to the bridge and opposite to Hotel Sunu Keur. Now there are plants, tables and chairs and benches for anyone to have a break. He took the initiative to clean this area and planted trees and set up a place where you can have a coffee and snacks and just sit back and relax.
Ngagne Dabo Ndiaye’s dream is that he will find collaborators with whom he could create more activities for everybody with canoes, paddling boats, games for children and so on. He has been running Chez Relax now for a year without any support and any small gain from selling coffee goes to keeping this place running. If you are in town, please do visit him and stop for a chat and coffee and maybe a sandwich! In case you show up there in the hot hours of the afternoon and he is nowhere to be seen, check under the bridge: he might me having his siesta down there in the cool river bank.