An application of GIS and coastal geomorphology for large scale assessment of coastal erosion and management: a case study of Ghana

Isaac Boateng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Coastal erosion poses serious threat to life and properties along Ghana’s coast. This is because major industries, urban settlements, recreational facilities, heritage and conservation sites are located few metres from the coast. In spite of this threat, management strategies, both past and present, remain an “ad hoc” and site specific. Limited attention has been given to large scale assessment and investigation to detect the rate of coastal recession and the size of land lost to the sea to inform integrated management plan and to formulate sustainable management strategies to deal with the problem. This paper provides large scale assessment of coastal recession in Ghana through field investigation, applied coastal geomorphology and GIS techniques to selected case study areas. The assessment covered 203 km out of the 540 km coastline of Ghana. Results of the assessment indicate that coastal erosion is very substantial and wide spread along the coast, but the rate of recession varies across the entire coastline. Significant amounts of losses of settlements have been experienced in some localities in the eastern coast (Keta and Ada) and the central coast (Accra, Shama and Sekondi-Takoradi). In some areas, coastal defences have been built to reduce the impacts, yet many areas are still very vulnerable. Interestingly, the paper identified that the high rates of retreat recorded in many areas have yet to cause major risks in some local communities because of the presence of a buffer of largely undeveloped land that has existed historically between the shoreline and the developments. However, recent increase in coastal tourism in Ghana has led to “scramble” for purchase of these buffer lands for development, which increase the risk. Ghana has the opportunity to use education and land use planning to keep the coastline clear of major developments and avoid the temptation of engaging in costly cycle of development-risk-defence experienced in many countries including the UK and the Netherlands. The paper recommends that Ghana should adopt the UK SMP, which has progressively moved away from the traditional re-active and parochial approaches of providing localised hard-engineered coastal defence work to solve what was perceived to be a local problem, to a more pro-active and holistic approach that take full account of coastal dynamics, interrelationships of coastal systems, knock-on effects, environment concerns and developments at the backshore.
Original languageEnglish
Article number397
Pages (from-to)383
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Coastal Conservation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


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