Ivory Coast builds a wall to protect an endangered urban park

Rangers stand guard as Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO of the Global Environment Facility, visits the Banco forest during the 15th session of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire , May 11, 2022. REUTERS / Luc Gnago

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ABIDJAN, May 30 (Reuters) – Concerned about illegal logging and pollution in Banco National Park in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan, authorities are erecting a concrete perimeter wall that they hope -they, will preserve its distinctive ecosystem.

Banco extends over 34 square kilometers (13 square miles) west of Abidjan, making it the second largest urban park in the world, behind Tijuca National Park in Rio de Janeiro.

Some of its wildlife, which includes monkeys, chimpanzees and 500-year-old trees, is considered sacred by locals, and its shady paths are a paradise for hikers and cyclists in the city of 5 million streets. crowded.

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But Banco is threatened by the pressures of Abidjan’s rapid growth. Residents are illegally felling trees to build homes and dumping their waste in the woods, officials say.

Park officials hope to put an end to this. Recently, dozens of construction workers piled concrete bricks two and a half meters high along a muddy patch between the highway and the park.

“In reality, it’s 12 km of fences for a perimeter of 24 km because a good part of the border has already been nibbled here and there to build urban lots”, declared Adama Tondossama, the director general of the Office. Ivorian parks and reserves. .

Tondossama said he hopes efforts to protect Banco will help him earn a place on the list of World Heritage Sites of the United Nations agency, UNESCO.

Banco’s groundwater supplies 40% of Abidjan’s drinking water and captures 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

Park authorities have worked with local communities to avoid any misunderstandings related to the wall and to emphasize the importance of protecting the forest.

“We must not lose the forest. We are sort of the guardians here,” said Mesmin Yapo, the deputy chief of a village on the outskirts of the park.

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Report by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Aaron Ross and Raissa Kasolowsky

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