Rising sea level in Maputo Bay

Advancing waters pose erosion threat for Maputo

Coastal erosion is diminishing the Xefina archipelago of three islands in the north-east of the Bay of Maputo, according to a report in local daily newspaper O Pais.

Xefina Grande, Xefina Pequena and Xefina do Meio act as a natural protective barrier for Maputo against the waves of the Indian Ocean. Xefina Grande is the largest island – about 6 sq km – and is located five kilometres from Maputo's popular Costa do Sol beach.

The newspaper report highlighted the scale of the problem by recalling that in 1942 Portugal installed artillery on Xefina Grande, 600 metres from the shoreline. Today the cannons are virtually submerged, meaning that the sea has advanced 600 metres into the island over the last 72 years.

About 30 people still live on Xefina Grande, formerly used as a prison in the 1920s, although the island has no facilities or fresh water. Xefina do Meio was once joined to Xefina Grande but was split in two in the floods of 2000.

The islands are known for their rich biodiversity and are surrounded by important coral reefs. Mozambican environmental researcher Carlos Serra has said if authorities fail to intervene now in Xefina then Maputo is faced with serious erosion problems in the future.