“Coasts are dynamic interface zones involving the meeting of the atmosphere, land and sea” (Viles, H and Spencer, T 1995:3) This quote highlights that coasts are in a constant rhythm of adjustment due to natural processes. The tools that shape the coasts include waves, tides and currents, which cause sediment movement to occur, giving rise to erosional or depositional coastal features (Viles, H and Spencer, T). In addition, the geomorphology of the land may give rise to ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ rock coastlines. Coasts are also home to unique ecosystems, for instance dune and saltmarsh ecosystems and it is possible to find unique species within these regions. Grasses such as Glasswort and Marram Grass can found as well as many birds such as Curlews and Little Egrets. (RSPB, 2005)
Viles and Spencer’s quote does not mention the interface with humans. This addition of another factor creates an even more dynamic coastline that is affected by human influences. Thus the coast, with the addition of humans, is often referred to as the ‘Coastal Zone’. This is defined as:
“…the combination of natural features and human activities which may interact across the whole zone or within individual components of the zone.”
(Doody, J, 2001:249)
The ‘Coastal Zone’ is a precious resource and plays an important role in development. Many human activities have and still occur within the coastal zone. The author will now discuss some of the activities that occur in the coastal zone. Transport is a particular activity that has encouraged economic growth, leading to the further development of ports. Imports and exports are transported using the sea, encountering ports where they are loaded and unloaded and transported inland by other methods. The coast is also the centre for tourist activity, many hotels, holiday camps have been established along the hinterland. In addition, tourists use the maritime environment as a commodity, such as whale watching and cruising. (Smith, H, 2000). Waste disposal is an activity that has it origins from tourist, industrial, and domestic sources. Furthermore, coastal engineering and management strategies are situated within the coastal region, including replenishment and defence schemes.
The activities discussed highlight the fact that the coastal zone is a multi-purpose area with many user functions. However, the activities often put pressure on the resources in the coastal zone resulting in “ramifications for use and environmental exploitation”(Viles, H and Spencer, T, 1995:13). One issue is that this could lead to problems amongst user groups, as some activities can often interfere with other user groups. The other issue is the environmental degradation that will take place through the prolonged use and competition for the coastal resource. These issues along with changes in public perception of the coastal resource have stressed the need for a management strategy that will ensure the sustainable use of the coastal resource. Sustainability is defined as;
“… the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
(World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, cited in Primack, R, 1993:15)
The definition highlights the fact that the coastal resource can still be used, but in a balanced way that does to lead to the detriment of the coastal environment “…within the limits set by natural dynamics and carrying capacity”. (Atkins, 2004: 12) This notion has become the underpinning philosophy of Integrated Coastal Zone Management. Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM),”…provides a mechanism which facilitates sustained use and exploitation of resources without degrading the environment, within a zone defined by natural processes and human activity.” (Doody, P, 2001:249) The term ICZM has only recently emerged over the past thirty years, and focuses on ‘integration’ where all user groups, referred to as ‘stakeholders’, are involved in the development and implementation of policies concerning the coastal zone. Furthermore, “the availability and the reliability of scientific information are recognised to be the critical factor, which can influence public opinion” (Ducrotoy, J and Pullen, S, 1999:1). Thus, ICZM involves the idea of ‘transparency’ of information so that the stakeholders can make informed decisions. It is important to remember that there is no definition of how far inland or offshore the management boundaries of a coastal zone should lie and thus greatly depends on regional authorities to decide upon this factor. (Atkins, 2004).
The main issue regarding ICZM is the fact that “No EU Member State has yet produced specific legislation on ICZM” (Gibson, J, 2003:128). Its implementation and practice depends on the series of different legislation and frameworks administered by the European Commission. There are numerous Directives that are related to the coastal zone, each one has an importance to the philosophy of ICZM. Firstly is the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (85/337/EEC), this ensures that a project undertaken, in this instance in the coastal area, must be subject to an environmental impact assessment into the predicted effects before authorisation is given. Similarly, the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (201/42/EC) requires an assessment of the environmental implications of the draft plans and project. It requires an earlier environmental impact assessment than the EIA Directive (85/337/EEC) and is regarded as “…a key tool for sustainable development.” (UNECE, 2005). Both of the Directives have a focus that is centred upon public consultation, enabling the public and stakeholders to know and provide comments on the proposal.
The opinions are used as a deciding factor before making the project permissible. Another Directive fulfilling the ICZM philosophy is the Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna and Flora Directive (92/43/EC), adopted into UK national legislation as The Conservation (Natural Habitats, ; c.) Regulations, 1994. This legislation requires bird species in the UK to be protected through the establishment of Special Areas of Conservation of which there are 608 designated sites throughout the UK (JNCC, 2004). It is the role of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to advise the government of the implementation of the Directive. Finally, the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC), and Shellfish Waters Directive (79/923/EEC) are Directives that place stringent controls on the quality of water, to protect bathers and shellfish growth, respectively. It is evident that there are many directives that concern the coastal zone and that “…these specialized directives are useful tools that contribute to the achievement of ICZM…” (Gibson, J, 2003:131).
International instruments also have their influences on the implementation of the ICZM philosophy in the UK. Agenda 21, chapter 17 ‘concerning protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas, and coastal areas and the protection rational use and development of their living resources’ (UNEP, 2005) has evangelised the idea of ICZM. It calls for “for integrated management and sustainable development of coastal and marine areas and their resources, at both the local and national levels”, (UNEP, 2005, Chapter 17.6). In addition, the Agenda advocates the idea of the ‘precautionary principle’ and adoption of suitable planning methods in relation to the dynamic nature and use of the coastal environment. More importantly, the Agenda highlights the need for the integration of sectoral departments dealing with sustainable coastal management schemes. The Agenda is a useful guideline for the implementation of integrated coastal zone management. This enables UN member states, for instance the UK, to input the recommendation into national legislation. However, the Agenda is not legally binding, questioning its power to promote its vision.
Within the United Kingdom, a number of different governmental departments, each with a particular focus, have different jurisdictions over the policy and management of the coastal zone. Firstly, The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). This department deals with aspects such as coastal defence, fisheries, and water quality. Its aim is to protect or improve, particularly the marine environment, through sustainable management and through integration with governmental and international policies. The Department for Transport deals with the ports and shipping ensuring safe passage of ships and the control of pollution attributed to ships. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) handles aspects dealing with tourism, heritage, and recreational activity. According to the Atkins Report, 2004, the DCMS “…manage the 48 wreck sites in the UK currently designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.”(Atkins, 2004:39). The Department for Trade and Industry manage offshore gas and renewable energies. However, similar to the Department for Trade and Industry the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister also implements a Strategic Environmental Assessment for projects to be established offshore.
Since the UK joined the European Union in 1973, directives established by the European Commission influence the roles and responsibilities of each department along with national legislation implemented by the UK government. It is evident that each department monitors their interest in relation to a particular directive or legislation. However, the UK’s structure creates a sectoral interest in the coastal zone, each with different policies that are akin with coastal management. This sectoral governmental role towards ICZM, is not reflective of the ICZM principles established by the EU (Atkins, 2004). Furthermore, the current UK framework disables the ability to integrate and collaborate information with other departments regarding the coastal zone. The local non-regulatory bodies are more akin with the EU philosophy of ICZM.
The UK strategy specifically towards coastal management is one in which there is no statutory requirement, only relying on stakeholder corporation (Gibson, J, 2003). The onus of coastal management is often placed on local authorities, through the formulation of by-laws, and non-government organisations. Jurisdiction over the coastal zone varies according to the ‘Above mean low water’ and ‘Below mean low water’. Any area above mean low water falls into the jurisdiction of local by-laws, with the land-use planning systems being the prominent method of management. The local authorities can assess an application with relation to government guidelines. Below mean low water is the jurisdiction of the sectoral government departments, discussed earlier, providing regulation of various developments.
The Exe Estuary Management Program is a good example ICZM practice in the UK. Its vision statement is to ” Establish secure mechanisms for all those interested in the use and management of the Exe to work closely together to deliver a sustainable future.” (Exe Estuary Management Partnership, 2004:8). The management program is formulated in a way that incorporates the participatory approach. It focuses on implementing the ‘precautionary principle’ and a common vision of sustainability within its management plan (Table One) and has proven to be a successful program. This has resulted in fewer conflicts between stakeholders and a joint common perception of the problem. It has achieved this vision with local governments, statutory agencies, and non-governmental interest groups. However, this is a success due to local initiatives and highlights that Coastal Zone Management tends to lose sight and effectiveness farther up the governmental scale, for example national and intentional recommendations. This is due to the fact that management programs based on the local scale can help create an effective management strategy that incorporates everyone, through the understanding and knowledge of the local environment. In hindsight, this example has shown that the ‘bottom-up’ approach is an effective tool in the implementation of the ICZM philosophy.
Table One: Principles of the Exe Estuary Management Plan
(Exe Estuary Project, 1998:9)
In 1996, the European Union launched the EU demonstration program to highlight issues concerning the coastal environment and principles of ICZM. Out of the thirty-five management programmes in the EU, seven were located in the UK. (Atkins, 2004) The conclusions highlighted some inadequacies in current coastal management programs within European member states. The aspects that were addressed included, ‘lack of vision concerning management, lack of stakeholder involvement concerning coastal management strategies, inappropriate sectoral legislation and policy and lack of co-ordination between regulatory bodies.’ (Atkins, 2004:2) The outcome of this audit enabled the EU to understand the principles needed for ICZM, see Table Two, and it was concluded that there was a need for a national strategy throughout Europe on ICZM.
Table Two: Key Principles for ICZM
* A broad overall perspective;
* a long-term perspective;
* adaptive management;
* local specificity;
* working with the natural processes;
* involving parties concerned;
* support of relevant administrative bodies;
* using a combination of instruments.
The results of the demonstration program also promoted a recommendation on the implementation of integrated coastal zone management within the European Union. On 30 May 2002, Member states were required:
“…to undertake an overall stocktaking to analyse which major actors, laws, and institutions influence the management of their coastal zone.”
(Atkins, May, 2003:1)
The purpose of this stocktake was to assess the current legislation, stakeholders and institutions and how they interact with each other within the UK (Atkins, May 2003). It addition, it aim was to identify gaps in the interactions which could prove to be obstacles for practical ICZM in the United Kingdom. (Atkins, 2003) The result of the audit would help to create a national practical ICZM scheme that would incorporate the co-ordination of all sectors in the formulation of policies whilst striving to ensure best practice of coastal zone management. It would also set a common vision of the term sustainable development. However, although the philosophy of ICZM has been agreed upon, the construction of a national strategy has yet to be completed.
In conclusion, “despite the fragmented government approach and the lack of statutory backing, many local authorities, …and NGOs have recognised the need for ICZM and plans.” (Ducrotoy, J and Pullen, S, 1999:13) It is evident that the attitude of the United Kingdom is one in which the onus of coastal zone management is left to the local authorities. The policies created by the upper governmental level provide the framework for effective integrated coastal zone management but they often do not reflect the philosophy of ICZM. This questions the effectiveness of the ‘top-down’ approach towards coastal zone management. Local scale initiatives have worked at achieving the ICZM principles and philosophy, for instance the Exe Management Scheme, however their success has little say in governmental policy making.
The UK at present may not be doing enough to implement the philosophy and principles of Coastal Zone Management. The UK tends to favour a voluntary approach rather than promoting statutory requirements (Gibson, J). However, it is hard to strike a balance with the notion of increased stringent statutory requirements or more autonomy to local governments concerning the coastal zone. Furthermore, who would be responsible for the coastal zone? Should it be left to the government to devise strategies and management plans or should the local governments and authorities take the helm and devise their own strategies?
The European Commission’s recommendation on a national strategy could prove to be a difficult task at implementing the ICZM principles and philosophy at a larger scale. Firstly, there needs to be effective communication between interest groups and an accurate scientific picture of the problem in order to formulate executive decisions along with effective policies. The idea of integrated coastal zone management through consultation prompts the idea that the coastal management process may involve consultation ‘over-kill’ and may result in plans being implemented at a too later stage followed by increased expenditure. Secondly, the sectoral authorities that exist in the United Kingdom would need to adopt the notion of transparency concerning information about the coastal zone. This could possibly suggest the need for the creating of a body to manage and monitor the UK’s coastal zones, for instance a ‘Coastal Agency’. Furthermore, the EU Directives that are in place may not be suitable enough for a coastal zone that is dynamic and ever changing. This poses another question about the purpose and practicability of the EU Directives in their role at indirectly or directly improving the coastal environment.
Finally, although there are many complexities surrounding the coastal zone, it appears that the UK and the EU have moved from a notion of ‘battling-with-the-sea’ to a notion of understanding of coastal processes. This understanding has encouraged the review of current methods toward coastal zone management to one that is more inclusive of new ideas and technologies. In addition, a move to towards a common vision of sustainability is emerging, the basis of the ICZM philosophy. Although no strategy is or will be infallible, it will be the best available technique at that time and will be subject to scrupulous review and change. Furthermore, “Whatever mechanism is adopted, the achievement of ICZM…will ultimately depend upon political will.” (Gibson, J, 2003:135)
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