The sea continues to roar and devour Keta

Kporkporgbor, Gbakpeygbor and Fuveme used to be vibrant communities in the Keta Municipality of the Volta Region of Ghana but they are no more.

They served as a hub for fishing activities for its inhabitants and others who are now strangers in other lands, including very skilled hands.

The towns lost the battle against the roaring sea, now submerged, adding to the long list of communities now under the ocean. 

Many have moved out of the Keta area to safer communities, including Accra, Kumasi, Ho, and Cape Coast and even other neighbouring West Africa countries.

Others too resettled in neighbouring communities, reminiscing their days in the towns they once called home, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) gathered during a visit. 

Agorkedzi, Atiteti, Dzita, Kedzikope, Horvi, Blekusu, Adina and Agavedzi are some of the communities currently at the front line, waiting to submit to the roar of the Atlantic Ocean.

These communities are not the only casualties; schools, health centres, a prison yard, markets, cemeteries, police station, colonial shops, coconut plantation, hospitality buildings in the range of two kilometers have all been eaten up.

A colonial relic, Prinzenstein, built in 1784 by the Danes in Keta, which served as a prison, is in ruins. It served as a transit point for slaves from Accra, Northern Volta, Togo and Dahomey, now Benin.

Fort Prinzenstein’s roof is off, the wooden structure looks weak and battered, while portions of its walls have crumpled.

Few meters from the fort, is the Saint Michael Cathedral, a magnificent worship centre built in 1982 by the Catholic Church.

At high tide, sea water rams the fence walls of the church and in some instances pulls it down.

A kilometer from the Cathedral is the residence of Joana Adiku, 60, who has lived in the area all her life.

“For those of us here, our situation can be described as sitting on tenterhooks especially from July onwards. Our situation is like being notified of a pending war but all border exits are closed,” she said in a trembling voice.

Growing up, she says, going to the seashore was quite a distance but now it is just three feet away.

Mr Joel Degue, 58, a development worker, and an indigene of the area, says the beautiful sandbar between the Atlantic Ocean and Lagoon Complex is sinking.

Two thirds of Keta have been taken by the sea. It used to be the capital of Volta Region but lost that status in 1986 due to land loss.

“In the 1980’s Keta used to be one of the most thriving business towns where traders from Togo, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Benin and Niger visited. The sea invasion which damaged market centres, robbed the area of such a mega business, leading to the exile of most her talented and exuberant people,” he said.

Mr Deng recalls that although the area had a history of coastal erosion, the rate of intrusion has been rapid and merciless in the last four decades.

“I grew up in Keta, specifically Dzelukope and Abutsiakope. I remember crossing an old very wide sand dune of a beach before reaching another one, especially around Ghanakpedzi and Lokpodzi beach towards Zomayi beach, Tettekope beach,” he recounts.

“Vividly, I remember seeing a very wide beach around Tegbi-Kpota, Woe Lighthouse, Whuti, Srogbe, Adakordzi, Akplorwotokor in as recently as the 1990s. Today, greater portions of those beaches have gone into the sea and the communities are precariously exposed.”

He likens erosion along the coastland, especially between Volta Estuary and Aflao as one of the greatest environmental threats in Ghana. Illegal mining, popularly known as “galamsey” may just surpass it.


Multiple factors contribute to the vulnerability of Keta, particularly extraction of sand at the beach, geographical location, depletion of vegetative cover and rising sea level caused by climate change, says Dr Andrews Agyekumhene, a mangrove expert at the Department of Marine and Fisheries Science University of Ghana.

In Ghana, the waves normally move from west to east and Keta, which already is below sea level, is hit by high waves, making that section vulnerable.

He explains that naturally the sea tides flow to the shore with a quantity of sand and take a quantity back when retreating.

“Once the sand deposit is extracted by the people, the tide has no choice than to  take the sand available back, and that causes the shore to erode.

Dr Agyekumhene indicates that the world is experiencing increase temperature as observed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations’ (UN) scientific body which regularly assesses the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

This is causing the seas to warm, while the ice cape (glacier) is also melting due to the warming. The results are an increase in volumes of sea water.

Asked about proximity, he tells GNA that Keta may be far from the glacier but the seas are connected, so happenings elsewhere impact on all of them.

The quest for a lasting solution

Successive governments have attempted solutions by building defense walls at some sections but the threats linger.

Mr Emmanuel Gamegah, the Metropolitan Chief Executive of Keta expresses optimism that the development of the commercial port will help mitigate the effect of the waves.

The government views improving port/transportation infrastructure as essential to facilitate commercial activity and to ensure, in turn, that Ghana can realise the anticipated economic benefits from increased regional trade resulting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

“From where I sit, I have been part of the process, leading to the completion of the port. When that happens. This tidal wave problem will be solved. I am aware that the project will reclaim one kilometer of the land taken by the sea,” he added

Aside from that, Keta will be benefiting from the second phase of the West Africa Coastal Areas, Resilience Investment Project 2 (WACA ResIP 2).

The World Bank in 2022 announced the approval of a $150 million in funding for Ghana to improve ecosystem health and protect communities from erosion, which includes the Volta Delta and Keta Lagoon.

This will be done through the protection and restoration of mangrove forests; nourishment of sandy barriers; dune revegetation; and building of protective infrastructure such as groynes.

For Dr Agyekumhene, building of infrastructure like sea defense helps but the best approach is to use nature-based solutions- planting more mangroves, coconuts and other vegetative plants to solve coastal erosion. 

“The structures will fall apart with time like in the case of Ada. The defense wall often shifts the problem from one location to the other. There are countries which have abandoned the sea defense concept and are not resorting to a natural base solution,”he said. 

The mangrove expert explains that best practices have demonstrated that vegetation holds the soil together which holds back the sea’s conquering quest. 

With nature-based solutions, Keta’s frontline communities, including Atiteti, Dzita, would survive the onslaught of the sea, the ancient force which has sent many into strange lands.

By Albert Oppong-Ansah 

Source: GNA

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