Not too long ago, Nouakchott, Mauritania, was a small fishing town. It became the country’s capital in 1958, shortly before Mauritania became independent. The town rapidly bloomed into a huge metropolis.
During a long series of drought years in the 1970s, thousands of rural families moved to Nouakchott in search of a better life. Refugees displaced by the Western Sahara War, which started in the mid-1970s, added to the city’s growth.
From small fishing town to rapidly expanding national capital, Nouakchott is surrounded by shifting sand dunes from the north and east, threatened by sea level rise from the west, and facing rising salty groundwater from below. Sand, salt, and water simultaneously threaten to damage the city from all sides. That’s why monitoring the region with Earth-observing satellites will be important for its future.
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