Guinean city enveloped by cloud of yellow dust
For several months out of the year, Nzérékoré, Guinea’s second largest city, is a city engulfed by dust. A thick, reddish-yellow cloud settles over it during the dry season, in part kicked up off of the unpaved roads by the constant tread of tyres, rendering the life of its inhabitants almost unbearable. After years of living in Nzérékoré, our Observer in Guinea decided to take action, calling on local authorities to finally begin long-promised road work aimed at paving the city’s byways.
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For several months out of the year, Nzérékoré, Guinea’s second largest city, is engulfed by dust. A thick, reddish-yellow cloud settles over it during the dry season, in part kicked up off the unpaved roads by the constant tread of tyres, rendering the life of its inhabitants almost unbearable. After years of living in Nzérékoré, our Observer in Guinea decided to take action, calling on local authorities to finally begin long-promised road work aimed at paving the city’s byways.
Situated in southern Guinea near borders with neighbouring Liberia and Ivory Coast, Nzérékoré is the country’s commercial hub. Much of the region’s agricultural products are traded there, and the city boasts a major sawmill and plywood factory. Mining has also grown to play a more important role in the region, with companies constantly searching for new areas to mine, creating a non-stop flow of traffic through Nzérékoré’s main roads and kicking up dust along the way.
At the beginning of the film, one of the four men sitting at the table criticises the government, saying: "There are a lot of politicians [from this region] who are not aware of the conditions this city's brave population live in". Video posted on YouTube by cjuel85.
Filmed on February 12, the video above was shot in the midst of the country’s dry season, when the dust situation in Nzérékoré is at its worst. Dubbed the “yellow cloud” by residents, the particles in the air pose a number of health hazards, such as respiratory diseases.
In February 2008, Guinea’s Prime Minister Lansana Kouyaté laid the foundation for future road work in Nzérékoré, but the project never advanced.
“President Alpha Condé personally assured me that he had acted on our demands”
Caleb Kolié, who is originally from Nzérékoré, now works as the director of Guinea’s Familia FM radio in Conakry. He took the initiative to have the “yellow cloud” filmed in a bid to pressure local authorities into action.
I asked a young director that I know to do a story to help raise awareness about Nzérékoré and how the people who live there can no longer breathe. The goal was to put pressure on the government, which had promised to improve the situation, but ultimately did nothing. The next legislative elections are scheduled for July 8. I told my self that we have to take advantage of the upcoming race as an opportunity to bend the ears of the local authorities.
The ‘yellow cloud’ is in part caused by the mining companies’ ever-present and endless stream of trucks rolling through the area. They’ve started spraying the ground with water to help ease their consciences, but the technique works for a maximum of two hours during the dry seasons. During the rainy season, the air quality is definitely better but the earth turns into mud, making it impossible to travel on the roads….
President Alpha Condé saw the film. He personally assured me that he had acted on our demands and told me that he had asked the ministry of public works and transportation to begin working on the issue. The ministry has responded by saying that they can’t begin work because some of the project’s funding has been delayed.
"The dust is so omnipresent that cars have to turn their lights on at two in the afternoon"
Elou is a computer scientist in Nzérékoré.
I’m originally from the village of Boké, in the west. I moved to N’Zérékoré for work. It’s the economic centre of Guinea. It’s ironic that the city’s infrastructure is so poor considering the it’s reputation. There’s no electricity here, everything runs off of generators.
The dust is so omnipresent that cars have to turn their lights on at two in the afternoon. It’s impossible to see. It’s also bad for our health to breathe in this ‘cloud’ all day long. I’m dealing with respiratory and intestinal problems right now because of it and I don’t dare go for a walk in town.
The population here hasn’t reacted. They wait patiently, telling themselves that the construction work will begin one day. In Africa we spend our time nourishing hope. If I weren’t bound here by my work, I would have left a long time ago.
Screen grab of dust in Nzérékoré at around 5 pm.