Cameroon pre­pares for African Cup of Na­tions, trees fall

The East African - - OUTLOOK - By ELIAS NTUNGWE NGALAME Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion

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.

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