Cameroon prepares for African Cup of Nations, trees fall
CAMEROON HAS cut thousands of hectares of forest to build stadiums, hotels, roads and housing to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations - a move that could lead to worsening urban flooding and droughts, the country’s environmental groups warn.
“Cameroon’s ability to host the 2019 Africa football Cup of Nations depends on the availability of adapted modern infrastructure,” said Oumarou Tado, secretary general of Cameroon’s Ministry of Sports and Physical Education.
“It is regrettable that many of these new projects have led to vast deforestation - but we had to meet the strict (guidelines) of the African football confederation,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In Yaounde, the capital, about 34 hectares of trees were cut to build the new Olembe stadium, about 13 km from the centre of the city. In Limbe, 30 hectares of forests were removed to create space for a stadium and a sport training facility.
Much more land has been cleared to build other facilities related to the 2019 competition, including roads, hotels and large new tracts of housing, environmentalists say.
Part of what has driven tree cutting, Tado said, is that specifications for Cup of Nations infrastructure improvements require the new facilities to be built in areas that are easily accessible but without traffic problems.
“These specifications were found in forested areas on the outskirts of major cities,” he said.
Cameroon’s legendary World Cup soccer player Roger Milla, a sports ambassador for the country, said forested areas had to give way to improve the country’s sporting facilities, noting that “to make omelets one has to break eggs”.
“Cameroon is a lead football nation in Africa but paradoxically without modern sports infrastructure. We have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Milla, whose foundation Coeur d’afrique has taken part in tree planting.