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Coastal Zone Management (Integrated)

Author: Environmental Evaluation Unit, UCT

( Article Type: Explanation )

The South African coast
The coast is a distinct, but limited spatial area that derives its character mainly from the direct interactions between the land and the sea. South Africa’s coast extends for approximately 3 000 kilometres from the Namibian border in the west, to the border with Mozambique in the east.

Nearly a third of our population live at the coast, mainly in the cities of Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, as well as centres such as East London, Saldanha and Richards Bay.

Our coast provides food and sustenance for many people living in both rural and urban coastal areas, and our ports are a gateway to international trade. The coast is also an area of tremendous importance for recreation and tourism, whilst supporting a range of coastally dependent businesses and commercial ventures. Furthermore, the cultural, educational, religious, scientific and spiritual importance of the coast and its resources, are invaluable. The coast is a national asset, belonging to all people of South Africa, and its products account for around 35% of our national Gross Domestic Product.

Given the enormous value of coastal resources, as well as the mounting human pressure on coastal ecosystems worldwide, increasing attention is being given to improving the management of all coastal regions.

Efforts to improve coastal management
International concern for the coast, and efforts to enhance coastal management, are reflected in a number of international recommendations and agreements such as Agenda 21 and the various conventions that deal with coastal resources.

Furthermore, guidelines for integrated coastal management (ICM) have been developed by, for example, the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Conservation Union.

In Africa, coastal nations are focusing efforts in a co-operative manner through two United Nations Environment Programme conventions, namely:

  1. The Abidjan Convention for the Co-operation in the Protection and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment in the West and Central African Region; and
  2. The Nairobi Convention on the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment in the East Africa Region.

Coastal management in South Africa is in the process of being transformed by the introduction of the integrated coastal management (ICM) approach. The White Paper for Sustainable Coastal Development in South Africa, released in April 2000, ushered in this new era for coastal management, and is a product of an extensive public-participation, research and analysis process.

The White Paper is driven by the need to realise the opportunities our coast provides to build our nation and transform our economy and society. It deliberately seeks to improve the quality of life for current and future generations of South Africans. It recognises that, in order to do so, we must maintain the diversity, health and productivity of coastal ecosystems. The challenge, posed by the White Paper, is to achieve sustainable coastal development through a dedicated and integrated coastal management approach, in partnership with all of South Africa’s citizens.

The White Paper noted that existing South African legislation affecting coastal management has been fragmented, administered by diverse government departments, and, in some cases, is outdated or inappropriate. It recommended that legislative changes be made to facilitate integrated coastal management. Consequently, new national legislation, the National Environmental Management Coastal Zone Bill is presently being drafted to give effect to the coastal policy commitments.

In view of the multiplicity of activities that take place in the coastal environment, most of the government departments, at all spheres of governance, are responsible for aspects of coastal management in South Africa. Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) Directorate, within the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEA&T), is ultimately responsible for providing national leadership for promoting sustainable coastal development. This is largely achieved through the CoastCARE partnership programme, which involves the private and public sector, and seeks to enhance opportunities and address barriers to achieving sustainable livelihoods for poor coastal communities. Other CoastCARE initiatives include Working for the Coast, Local Demonstration Projects, and the Blue Flag programme.