Integrated Coastal Zone Management

A UNESCO-sponsored workshop on the subject of Integrated Coastal Area Management was recently organized at Karachi on 13 & 14 May 2011 under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and Technology/National Institute of Oceanography. This was a follow-up to an earlier workshop on the same theme, organized as far back as 1994, some seventeen years earlier. The 1994 workshop presumably took it’s cue from the Earth Summit of 1992 at Rio de Janeiro which, inter alia, formalized the concept of ICZM.

In the recently concluded conference, scholars from Bangladesh (Dr Sirajur Rahman), China (Dr Yunxuan Zhou), Sri Lanka (Dr Nalin Wikramanayake), Turkey (Dr A Chouikhi) and Viet Nam (Dr Tran Duc Thanh) were in attendance. Dr Hratch Kouyoumjian, also from Turkey, who is the Chief of the UK-based Islamic Network of Oceanographers lent the much-needed focus to the selected theme.

The two-day workshop featured as many as two dozen presentations, eighteen of them by local scholars. These dealt with various issues related to the coastal region, like pollution, use of satellite imagery, upstream influences, seawater intrusion, coastal environment, mangroves, threat assessments and coastal development. While all the presentations were quite informative, the only ones I thought which had a direct connection with the workshop’s basic theme were “An Approach to the Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Vietnam” by Dr Tran Duc Thanh and “Aspects of Coastal Management in INOC Countries” by Dr Hratch Kouyoumjian.

What was strikingly apparent, to me at least, was that not much mention was made about the progress made since the last similar workshop some seventeen years earlier. It surely stands to reason that we can’t possibly hope to move forward on such a vital issue if we start afresh with every new workshop. The second thing that struck me was the lack of representation of the major stakeholders. The involvement of the relevant bodies of the federal, provincial and local government, as well as the private sector and those amongst the coastal residents that derive their livelihood from the coastal region, is a sine qua non for the ultimate success of integrated planning and management.

The third question which agitated by mind was that of coordination. Is MoST/NIO ideally poised to handle this issue and take it forward? It is true that MoST/NIO has a vital role to play as a scientific advisor on the subject, but it’s credentials are a bit suspect when it comes to coordination. On reflection, it dawned on me that that UNESCO must have chosen the Ministry of Science & Technology by default since the other 13 odd Ministries, which have some sort of a stake in matters maritime, are even less relevant. NIO, in it’s turn, being arguably the only maritime-related component of MoST, was an obvious choice from the Ministry’s perspective.

The fourth aspect, that was even more disconcerting was that the very concept of ICZM still remained alien to our psyche and perhaps as elusive as ever. While talking about the development of the Balochistan Coast, the DG of the Balochistan Coastal Development Authority stressed that his mandate was only restricted to the coastal belt stretching 30 km inland. Similarly, the Sindh Coastal Development Authority is only responsible for the Indus delta region alone. This is tantamount to nullifying, rather than adopting, the proven concept of ICZM.

So what is ICZM all about? Briefly put, the concept is based on the realization that the border between the land and the sea is not a sharply-defined one, in that “ terrestrial processes and land uses directly affect oceanic processes, and vice versa” (Ketchum, 1972). Integration of the terrestrial and marine components of the so-called coastal belt in both time and space, is thus essential for serving the cause of sustainability. Over time, the word ‘integration’ has taken on new meanings. It no longer encompasses integration between the land and water segments alone, but also among the various levels of government as well as among the various spheres of activity and the stakeholders themselves.

The coastal region, as has been widely acknowledged, is counted amongst the world’s most diverse, complex and productive. A large number of activities like port development, shipping, ship construction, ship repairs, ship breaking, aquaculture, mariculture, industry, tourism, recreation etc, all tend to compete for the same space and in the process, degrade the rich and diverse ecosystems which serve as a lifeline. Almost all sensible and knowledgeable coastal communities have whole-heartedly embraced the concept of Integrated Coastal Zone Management, which not only furnishes a viable land-sea interface, but also serves as a built-in mechanism for conflict resolution and as an instrument for environmental conservation.

So if we are really convinced as to the viability of the ICZM concept, what should be the way ahead? First and foremost, we must take full stock of the prevailing situation, as well as the pervasive problem areas. Barring a major blip in the form of the coastal city of Karachi and minor ones in the shape of Ormara and Gwadar, our coastline is largely pristine and undeveloped. This is both a good thing as well as a bad thing; good, because it enables us to employ sound ICZM principles during the planning and development process; bad, because it shows that we have a long, long way to go.

The problem areas are equally well known. Pollution in the form of industrial effluents, agricultural nutrients, urban waste, marine debris, ship discharges and accidental spills has wreaked havoc on the coastal environment. The systematic destruction of our mangroves and natural habitats has resulted in upsetting our delicate coral ecosystem. Over-fishing, use of destructive fishing practices and IUUF (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing) are posing the greatest threat to our biodiversity and sustainability.

It is thus obvious that an integrated approach, beyond the confines of our traditional land-based thinking, is needed for the sustainable development of our coast which addresses the policy, capacity, environmental, administrative and sectoral issues of both the terrestrial and marine components. A good case exists for the setting up of an autonomous Integrated Coastal Zone Authority, in which all the stakeholders, namely the federal and provincial departments, local bodies, the private sector and those that derive their livelihood from the coastal region, are amply represented. This authority can then be charged with the preparation of a consolidated maritime spatial plan which addresses the needs of all relevant stakeholders and is equally receptive to environmental and sustainability concerns. Keeping the current devolution mood in mind, the existing Balochistan and Sindh Coastal Development Authorities can then take it on from there, ensuring all the while that the developmental guidelines promulgated are adhered to. The ICZM Authority should continue to act as a focal point, consultant, advisor, mentor and supervisor to BCDA and SCDA during the development and management process. All this can be undertaken in the context of the new National Maritime Policy and National Maritime Strategy, which incorporate ICZM as a key feature, and is currently under deliberation at the NMACC (National Maritime Affairs Coordination Committee). An integrated approach for the sustainable development of the coastal zone can yield rich dividends. A sustainable and secure coastal environment is the least that we can bequeath to our coming generations for them to enjoy and revel in.

Note: This was published in the daily newspaper ‘Pakistan Today’ in it’s issue of 11 June 2011. It was also published in the June 2011 issue of the ‘Navy News’.

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