Shifting Ground: The Failures of Luanda’s Coastal Protection

Shifting Ground: The Failures of Luanda’s Coastal Protection

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The Luandan littoral is contantly shifting. Territorial changes along the coast through the ages show that the Ilha de Luanda, a barrier peninsula created by sandbars, debris and sediment, was a much longer and wider sandbank in the 16th and 17th centuries than in the 20th and 21st centuries. The volatility of the area largely derives from natural phenomena, from a constant battle between water and land. It was only in the 20th century, during both the colonial and post-colonial periods, that consistent large-scale infrastructural attempts were made to stabilise the shifting ground of the Ilha de Luanda. As yet, these actions have not been entirely successful.

This paper will focus on the large-scale coastal protection plans implemented in Luanda attempting to reduce the impacts of the natural phenomena that had affected the Ilha over the years. In 1925, 1940s and 1950s several coastal protection works were implemented, employing artificial nourishment of the Ilha’s coast. All these actions proved to be ineffective and incapable of achieving its goals.

In the post-independence period, ambitious coastal protection plans were also launched amid many uncertainties. It appears that those who criticised the older (colonial) protection works with such assurance had still failed to find the ideal solution. The sea has never ceased to impose its erosive action, progressively shrinking beaches and rendering the Ilha coastline extremely vulnerable.

The numerous doubts and uncertainties presented in all of the coastal protection plans confirm that, despite all the expert and specialist studies, there was always room for more or less ‘improvised’ solutions. In fact, the flexibility and adaptability of the plans was viewed as normal. The ambiguity between planned and unplanned, or formal and informal, design and engineering strategies would remain a common and widespread feature in postcolonial Luanda.

Corresponding Author

Paulo Moreira

Faculdade de Arquitetura Universidade de Lisboa

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Paulo Moreira

Faculdade de Arquitetura Universidade de Lisboa

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