In its report, the agency wrote that climate change-related threats such as coastal erosion – a phenomenon wherein strong tidal waves encroach on the coastline – and unpredictable torrential rains have exacerbated structural integrity issues caused by years of neglect and lack of maintenance.
The US$94million project was funded through a loan from the United States Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank), and saw the construction of a wall that has kept the ocean at bay so it could not cause further erosion to the coastline.
“It [Fort Vernon] is now a death-trap,” said Joyce Ayorkor Guddah, the Tourism and Culture Officer in Ningo Prampram district, the local government office.
While the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board – the government agency in charge of these forts – is aware of the imminent danger to Fort Vernon, Guddah added that little had been done to rescue the monument.
“Losing the fort will mean a big revenue loss in our bid to harness its tourism potential,” said Guddah. “And for the people, it will erase an important part of their history.”
Governments are increasingly becoming resigned to the idea of losing some of these heritage sites to the effects of climate change for good, said Will Megarry, who works at the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) as its Focal Point for Climate Change.
“They are accepting that the sites are going to be lost, and what they’re trying to do in the interim is preserve them by their records,” said Megarry.
These vulnerable nations, mostly small islands or countries with smaller economies, have demanded their counterparts support a fund that will help in dealing with the fallout of climate change. The conference raised more than US$230million in pledges for the fund – an amount that falls far short of the US$100billion per annum vulnerable countries have persistently demanded.
While Ghana and other vulnerable countries wait on the well-endowed economies to make good their promises, the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board- the government agency that manages these heritage sites – remains cash-strapped, barely generating enough revenue to fund conservation plans.
“As a country, we have not done enough in conserving these monuments apart from the notable ones in Accra, Cape Coast and Elmina,” said Bernard Agyiri Sackey, Director of Monuments at the Ghana Museum and Monuments Board.
Government’s inability to fund conservation plans has led the Monuments Board to seek the benevolence of institutions like UNESCO, the UN agency that previously identified these former slave posts as having “Outstanding Universal Value” – transcending national boundaries and of importance for present and future generations of all humanity.
Forty-four years after recognising the former slave posts’ uniqueness, the UN agency has committed almost US$280,000 to fund various conservation works in Ghana. It’s worth noting that the agency is not obliged to financially support the maintenance of these monuments, although countries seeking to carry out restorative works are mandated to notify the UN agency.
Ghana’s ability to stave-off climate change impacts on its heritage sites is a costly endeavor and government has demonstrated it cannot shoulder that cost without seeking external assistance; with the Keta Sea Defence and other similar projects proving this point.
In November 2022 President Nana Akufo-Addo, speaking in Egypt at COP27 during the UN’s climate change conference, reminded richer countries which generate more emissions into the environment of their promise to help vulnerable nations like Ghana mitigate the impact of climate change.
“Payment is overdue for the loss and damage suffered by our most vulnerable and least responsible nations,” President Akufo-Addo said
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