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Nouakchott regional adaptation policies at a glance

This case study provides a short insight of adpatation issues faced by the region of Nouakchott and the policies designed and implemented to tackle them through the AREDDUN project
Nouakchott picture


Nouakchott is the capital of Mauritania, located on the Atlantic coast and in the sub-Saharan region covering 204 km2 with 958,399 inhabitants (27.1% of the country’s population). The climate is hot and dry all year round with light and very irregular rainfall during the summer and dry winds causing silting up. The city’s coastline is surrounded by a dune barrier. The main economic activities are agriculture, livestock farming and fishing.

*Download the full publication from the right-hand column. A summary of the key messages from the case study are provided below. See the full text for more details. This publication is also available in French.


The AREDDUN project (Support for Environmental Resilience and Sustainable Development in Nouakchott), funded by the European Union, was implemented by the Regional Council of Nouakchott. It is based on several expert studies with the objective of developing a Sustainable Energy Access / Climate Action Plan. The participatory approach used aims to inspire the preparation of Mauritania’s country programme for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Mauritania’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) under the Paris Agreement. Nouakchott’s strategic vision for adapting to climate change is also part of the National Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Shared Prosperity (SCAPP) for 2030, which focuses on major transformations in the Mauritanian economy.


Several expert studies (vulnerability diagnosis, energy audit of public institutions, carbon footprint) have been carried out since 2018 by design offices in the 9 municipalities of the Nouakchott Region. In order to feed into the vulnerability diagnosis, a consultation process designed and led by a consulting firm was also implemented by the Regional Council of Nouakchott. Three groups of actors were targeted: government departments, elected officials and civil society. The process included a first consultation workshop to develop a common vision on resilience and adaptation to climate change in Nouakchott. In a second step, the groups meet to analyse the results and contribute to the development of the action plan.


ANTHROPOGENIC PRESSURES: large-scale rural exodus and population boom (+755,481 people between 2000 and 2013); uncontrolled urban development; anthropogenic fragility (illegal sand exploitation, 4×4 passage, overgrazing) and climate (reduced rainfall, disappearance of vegetation) of the dune cordon.

VULNERABLE SECTORS: water and sanitation, agriculture, livestock and fisheries; coastal, spatial and urban planning and public networks and services (transport, energy, waste)

MARINE INTRUSIONS, COASTAL EROSION AND FLOODING: acceleration of dune erosion by increasing extreme storms and marine incursions; reinforcement of shoreline retreat by increasing sea level; possibility of major flooding (1/3 of the urban perimeter would be located in a floodplain); formation of permanent pools (sub-surface groundwater)

SILTING: increase in exposure to silting (wind movement of dune cordons); exacerbation of silting already aggravated by dry winds; probable increase in droughts, heat waves and decrease in rainfalls.

URBAN HEAT ISLAND: exacerbation of heat islands.

Adaptation Actions


  • No. 1 : Improvement of the city’s resilience against maritime intrusions and floods. Currently the barrier dune is the only protection for the city against marine floodings, but is prey to coastal erosion. The city is thus not only planning to protect the dune, but also to reinforce other factors of resilience, including through environmental and socio-economic aspects.
  • No. 2 : Conservation and management of natural resources and the environment. Purifying water and ensure easy access to drinkable water in a warming climate is key to Nouakchott population, as well as improving solid waste management and sanitation.
  • No. 3 : Promotion of a diversified economy and the establishment of socio-economic shock absorbers. As the capital and economic centre of the country, Nouakchott’s economic tissue would be at risk in case of rural exodus provoked by an inland changing climate. The aim is to reinforce socio-economic buffers, especially regarding food security, through job creation, off-grid energy systems, development of small-scale agriculture and building system using local materials.
  • No. 4 : Governance and capacity building. As transversal issue, it requires the region of Nouakchott to upskill and mainstream climate adaptation throughout all its policies.


Two types of measures have been established: structural measures of strategic scope and whose implementation requires the involvement of the Mauritanian State and measures that fall within the competence of the Region and can be implemented for the short and medium term. More specifically, priority activities involve:

  • Developing the Coastal Planning Directive (Region)
  • Securing and restoring the dune cordon (Region)
  • The development and tourist enhancement of the coastal façade (Region)
  • Support for the relocation of Nouakchott’s populations at risk (Region)
  • The major programme for the water/sanitation/urban agriculture sector with:
    • A pilot project of a “sponge district” against floods (Region, municipalities and Ministry of Hydraulics)
    • Vegetation project: Nourishing and making Nouakchott green (Region, municipalities, local associations)
    • Local sanitation throughout the city (Region and municipalities)
    • The Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (ISWMP) (Region)
    • Updating climate change adaptation planning documents (Region)

Strengths of the Actions

Local stakeholders were involved in a consultation process all along the implementation phase of the project. En Haut ! designed and organized 4 workshops with 3 groups of stakeholders: State services, local councillors and civil society organisations.

As a result from the workshops, each of the groups of actors were able to identify their own vulnerabilities and build up a common vision for Nouakchott’s adaptation.

Involving 2 levels of government (State and region) and civil society organisations allowed an intersectoral and complementary approach.

Limits of the Approach

  • There is dependence on external resources (financial, material) for the implementation of actions:Nouakchott regional council depends on State subsidies or international funding like the Green Climate Fund.
  • Significant socio-economic and demographic issues might be not sufficiently integrated into the process when compared to their importance in the diagnosis.
  • While all actors involved shared very similar diagnosis of Nouakchott’s vulnerabilities, the participatory approach revealed some discrepancies regarding the identified needs for action, somehow reflecting a gap of culture of action. On the one hand local councillors and State services groups converged to advocate the integration of adaptation in urban planning and strengthening of natural protections of the city. On the other hand, civil society organizations mostly stressed the need for awareness campaigns and were more prone to bring up original solutions.

This case study is part of six territorial adaptation case studies of the ‘Adaptation Book’. The book tells the political and conceptual story of adaptation in international climate negotiations (section 1), before analyzing subnational and local governments initiatives (section 2) through global reports and case studies. We then study adaptation issues raised and answers provided in six sectors of the economy (section 3), to finally conclude with an overview of financial flows and tools for adaptation (section 4).

Suggested citation

Climate Chance & Comité 21 (2019). “Adaptation Book” Synthesis Report 2019 on Adaptation Action. Global Observatory on Non-state Climate Action.


Fatimetou Boukhreiss, coordinator of AREDDUN project, Region of Nouakchott: [email protected]

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