Monday, November 4, 2013

PLPR conference to host a Mare Nostrum roundtable on coastline regulation and land management

The eighth annual conference of the International Academic Association for Planning, Law and Property Rights (PLPR), to take place in Haifa on February 11-14 2014, will include a special roundtable on coastline regulation and land management, as part of the EU-funded Mare Nostrum Project.

The PLPR 2014 Conference will be held over two and a half days, and will include optional workshops over the two days before the conference begins.

The addition of the preliminary workshop days is an innovation with regard to previous PLPR conferences, and will focus on current challenges in the realm of planning, law and property rights. Participants will have the opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas with Israeli decision-makers, NGOs and professionals, and will visit relevant sites. Following the tradition of previous PLPR conferences, PhD students will be invited to take part in a special mentoring and interaction forum.

Those interested in participating in the roundtable are invited to send abstracts to the conference’s organizers.

On the Friday following the conference, participants may join a planning tour of Haifa and the nearby Druze Arab villages, Isfiya and Daliyat al-Karmel, located in the scenic Mount Carmel coastal range.

The International Academic Association on Planning, Law and Property Rights (PLPR) has as its mission:

  •  To serve as an academic peer group for research in the field. Usually, faculty members in planning schools who do research in this area lack a large enough peer group with whom to discuss their research and obtain useful comments. 
  • To promote research with a cross-national comparative perspective so as to enable exchange of knowledge that is so lacking in the current state of research.
  • To exchange approaches and methods in the teaching of planning law to planning students so as to improve this essential area.
  • To support young academics researching in the fields of planning, law, and property rights.

Previous annual PLPR conferences have been held in Portland (2013), Belfast (2012), Edmonton (2011), Dortmund (2010), Aalborg (2009) and Warsaw (2008).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mare Nostrum findings to be presented at the MEDCOAST ICM Conference

The findings of the Mare Nostrum project will be presented at the EMECS-MEDCOAST Global Congress on Integrated Coastal Management (ICM), which will take place in Marmaris, Turkey on 30 October-3 November 2013.

Prof. Rachelle Alterman
Mare Nostrum coordinator, Prof. Rachelle Alterman, will discuss at the event lagging implementation at all levels of government of coastal protection measures in place. This, together with the strong desire to build in beach zones among developers, characterizes the situation around the Mediterranean Basin.

“Despite the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in the Mediterranean, signed in 2008, the Mediterranean coastline is being eroded away day by day by real-estate development, infrastructure projects and pollution,” Alterman asserts in the paper that she will present at the conference.

According to the paper, which was written together with Dr. Rachel Adam, Mare Nostrum Project Manager, unsustainable development is still the norm among partner countries. Lack of clear definitions of spatial boundaries and time-frames in coastal-zone policies and weak enforcement due to lack of resources and political will have created a vacuum which has been filled by development pressures.

Mare Nostrum brings together partner organisations from Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Malta, Spain and Turkey.

“In all partner countries, governments have or are pursuing ‘fast-track’ planning procedures which are designed to streamline the planning process for developers, while often impairing transparency and the public’s right to be aware of and participate in the planning process,” notes Alterman.

Work by Mare Nostrum partners has revealed that despite variations in law, institutions, political structures and culture, Mediterranean countries share many of the same obstacles that hinder implementation of successful laws and policies regarding coastal development. The weakness of institutions and fragmentation of authorities across the board is illustrated by several striking examples.

Illegal construction is the key threat to coastal preservation and the overwhelming impediment to effectively managing coastal development in Greece, Italy (particularly Sicily), Malta, Spain and Turkey. Retroactively legalising such construction was discovered to be a shared practice among these countries. In all partner countries besides Israel (where all coastal areas, and more than 90% of lands in general, are publicly held), a lack of information on land ownership hampers effective enforcement of laws against illegal construction along coasts, as well as of policies designed to ensure public acces to the coast.

In Israel coastal development plans approved prior to the 1983 National Outline Plan for the coastline, together with new national infrastructure projects that require a coastal location, are the primary threats.

All partner countries besides Malta have legislation known as “coastal laws,” but these are generally not comprehensive frameworks for managing coastal development.

All partner countries’ legal systems deem coastal zones to be public property with public access, but these laws are often not enforced.

Alterman’s paper also survey’s policy developments over the years. Most recently, she stressed, the EU Barcelona Convention’s Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean (ICZM) technically came into force in 2011, but only nine of the 21 Barcelona Convention member states ratified it as of May 2013.

“The fact that less than half of the signators have ratified signals gaps in implementation of integrated coastal management at all scales, pointing to the lack of political will required to commit internationally to implement the Protocol and to balance between demands for coastal land use,” Alterman commented. Countries are reticent to commit to adapting their legislations to the Protocol’s provisions and to the cross-sectoral work inherent to ensuring the implementation of such legislations, she said.

Alterman is more optimistic regarding the EU’s March 2013 proposal for a framework directive on maritime spatial planning and integrated coatal management.

“In contrast to previous EU initiatives, this directive will be binding once it comes into force. Even assuming gaps in implementation and compliance, the directive can be expected to stimulate a coordinated region-wide push for good marine and coastal management, including Europe’s Mediterranean coats,” she said.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Villagers thwart development plan at vulnerable beach habitat in Turkey

By Prof. Dr. Fatma Unsal

The Çıralı beach zone is a 18,297 m² site along the coast of Antalya Province, Turkey. Çıralı is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, helping draw tourists and foreign residents to the area.

The Antalya region is a major tourist destination, known for its natural beauty and historic sites, and Çıralı in particular is a highest priority natural protection zone with a diversity of flora, including eighteen plants endemic to the area, and occurring nowhere else.

Çıralı' & Olympos coast beach (source: Tuğba Uğur, WWF-Türkiye)

Çıralı Beach is also an important breeding ground of the Loggerhead sea turtles. These migratory turtles are an endangered species with a low reproductive rate and diminishing population globally, and their numbers are particularly vulnerable to predation at their beach-based nesting areas and hazardous fishing equipment. Suitable nesting beaches such as Çıralı are very rare.

The site is a publicly owned asset, managed by the Directorate of Forestry, which is a department of the Ministry of Forestry. Two years ago, the Directorate allocated the Çıralı site to the use of the Sports Club of the Directorate for recreational purposes. However, the Sports Club of the Directorate handed over the management of the site to a tourism developer, giving him a ten-year lease. This developer attempted to build up fences along the perimeter of the Çıralı site, which triggered the reaction of the inhabitants of village of Çıralı. A ‘soft’ resistance started at the site, the most well-known being the protest action of the ‘yogi villagers’.

The resistance of the villagers was accompanied by legal procedures, which brought about the rejection of the site’s Development Plan by the Council of Protection of Historical and Natural Assets of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, due to the intensity of the proposed built-up areas, such as the canopies and eateries. But at the same time, another government ministry, the Ministry of Environment and Urbanism, approved the Development Plan proposed by the developer.

The villagers of Çıralı and various NGOs protested the decision of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanism, which they regarded as a threat to the future of the natural assets, especially the breeding ground of the Loggerhead sea turtles. The villagers first succeeded in bringing about an injunction preventing the execution of the developer’s lease agreement for the site. Subsequently, the villagers won two separate court cases, one terminating the development project and the other annulling the developer’s lease agreement entirely.

Contradictory decisions by different government ministries are not uncommon in Turkey. However, the selflessness of villagers who preferred the protection of natural assets to revenue-generating tourism developments is quite rare, and will hopefully guide residents of the other regions in similar situations.


The author is a Professor at the Faculty of Architecture Department of City and Regional Planning at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul and an Associate Partner at the Mare Nostrum Project.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Governments must work now to combat cliff erosion on Mediterranean coasts

Experts participating in the Mare Nostrum Project conference in Volos, Greece, last week called on all Mediterranean governments to take immediate and coordinated action and provide funding to fight cliff erosion.

"The risk of coastal erosion is shared by all Mediterranean countries," said Prof. Rachelle Alterman of the Technion in Israel. "This issue pertains to the coastline, which should be viewed as a national and international asset. Governments should act to meet their obligations as presented by the Integrated Coastline Zone Management (ICZM) Protocol to the Barcelona convention," added Prof. Alterman, who is the initiator and coordinator of Mare Nostrum, an EU-funded international effort to produce new methods to protect and properly manage Mediterranean coastal regions.

The Coastal cliff in Netanya, Israel
Mare Nostrum partners came together for a three-day conference in Volos, Greece for a groundbreaking first workshop, in which case studies from different Mediterranean countries were presented. The most urgent and unanimous conclusion to emerge from the meeting was the need for a positive and concerted effort to prevent erosion and collapse of characteristic limestone bedrock cliffs along the Mediterranean coast.

Participants representing municipalities in Alexandropoulos, Kavala, Haifa and Netanya highlighted the pressing need for government action at the national level to tackle the coastal erosion problem. They stressed that their cities desperately need large-scale investments for environmental engineering projects, but that the response from both national and regional authorities generally lags behind. It takes years to draft, approve and carry out regulations to provide financing from the national level, participants said. “Meanwhile, magnificent environmental assets are being eroded away, sometimes even endangering human life.”

"Everyone talks about climate change and the importance of coastline preservation, but in the meantime the beautiful cliffs of the Mediterranean are endangered by government procrastination," argued Prof. Alterman. "Fighting cliff erosion requires significant investments. Mare Nostrum calls on all governments in the region to recognize this shared problem and act quickly."

Participants of the Mare Nostrum workshop came from universities, municipalities and NGOs in Greece, Spain, Malta, Turkey, Israel and Jordan.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mare Nostrum’s Volos workshop to focus on case studies, cross-border action

The Mare Nostrum project’s first workshop, titled “The Input of Local Knowledge” – to be hosted by the University of Thessaly in Volos, Greece on July 23-25 – will focus on applying Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) across national borders, as well as on laying down the methodology ahead of the upcoming case studies.

The University of Thessaly in Volos
“After sharing information and data on national level in Haifa, it is now time to do the same on local level,” said workshop coordinator Prof. Ioannis Papatheocharis of the University of Thessaly, referring to the project’s opening conference in Haifa in early March. Those preparing case studies will present their study areas on the first day of the workshop, and sketch out a preliminary analytical presentation of each area. 

This will include environmental, socio-economic and demographic data, and legal and institutional factors, as well as existing ICZM policies and instruments, obstacles to their implementation and a brief survey of local stakeholders involved in ICZM in each study area. This will inform discussion on the overall methodology of the case studies illustrating existing practices and impediments to implementation. 

Case studies will include Alexandroupolis, Greece; Aqaba, Jordan; the Grand Harbour Area in Malta; Haifa, Israel; Kavala, Greece; the Marine environment of East Macedonia and Thrace in Greece; and Valencia Port Area in Spain. Topical case studies focusing on a specific aspect over a wider geographical region include one on Public Participation in ICZM in Israel, and another on the Regional Framework on Spatial Planning of East Macedonia and Thrace.

A key aspect of the workshop will be to examine how the proximity of national borders hinders implementation of ICZM on the ground, and how ICZM might be more successfully implemented on the supra-national level.

On the second day of the three-day event bringing together partners from around the Mediterranean basin, Mare Nostrum initiator and coordinator Prof. Rachelle Alterman will present the project’s first report, “Platform of Existing Knowledge on the Implementation Gap in Coastline Management”, and lead discussion on its content. 

The report – to be published on the Mare Nostrum website and in print – will critically evaluate current knowledge on international and national/regional ICZM initiatives and instruments, and will preliminarily assess their applicability to the various Mediterranean legal-institutional contexts, modes of governance and cultural specificities.

Concluding the workshop, there will be discussion of the Mare Nostrum project’s administration and communications, and a detailed presentation on the legal and institutional framework of ICZM as practiced in Greece, given by Prof. Elias Beriatos, Prof. Harry Coccosis, Prof. Paschalis Arvanitidis and Evangelia Balla.

Mare Nostrum brings together representatives from 11 partners: the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the University of Thessaly, the Democritus University of Thrace, the municipalities of Kavala and Alexandroupolis in Greece and Haifa in Israel, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Port Institute for Studies and Cooperation of the Valencia Region (FEPORTS), Amman Center for Peace and Development, Integrated Resources Management Co Ltd. (IRMCo) and Interteam Content Services. Experts from Italy, Turkey and elsewhere will advise the team.

Monday, April 29, 2013

New US plan paves way for local authorities to prepare coastal and marine spatial plans

The Obama administration released a comprehensive action plan earlier this month for protecting the United States’ lakes, oceans and coastlines. While the announcement was overshadowed by the Boston Marathon bombings, US environmental groups lauded the move as an important step forward.

The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan is based on a policy put together by the Obama administration in 2010. That policy - the countries first-ever for protecting its marine resources - created the National Ocean Council (NOC), a body designed to increase cooperation among the multiple federal agencies working in the field.

President Obama signs the Executive Order for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Coasts & the Great Lakes

In its announcement, the White House emphasized that the new plan would not create any new legal tools or administrative bodies, but noted that it had been put together with the cooperation of a diverse set of stakeholders.

In addition to streamlining the federal bureaucracy, the plan is expected to help administrative bodies share data with each other and with the public, and will facilitate the restoration of coastal habitats.

One aspect of the plan that is of particular interest to us at Mare Nostrum is the opening it creates for local authorities in the US to prepare coastal and marine spatial plans, with the participation of local public and stakeholders. This tracks quite closely with the work we are doing on finding ways to improve implementation of existing laws and frameworks at the local level in the Mediterranean region.

The US government’s move also comes as the European Union is moving forward with its first binding directive on coastal spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Policy tools and Med coast initiatives focus of Mare Nostrum's Kickoff conference

During the three-day Mare Nostrum opening conference, experts from different countries shared experience with various tools and information about laws and initiatives related to the Mediterranean seafront.

“The Mare Nostrum project is different from other ICZM projects in that it focuses on what needs to be done to improve conservation and management and how to carry this out,” explained Mare Nostrum initiator and coordinator Prof. Rachelle Alterman, referring to the EU Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean (ICZM). The Mare Nostrum project “will provide alternative tools for incremental improvement of implementation measures from the bottom-up, with emphasis on action at the local level. Each local government faces its own particular obstacles and impediments,” she noted.

Director of the Priority Action Plan, Regional Activity Center (PAP/RAC) at UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan, Zeljka Skaricic described the Pegaso project to facilitate ICZM implementation among scientists, stakeholders and policy decision-makers in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions by linking scientific knowledge and information required for the sustainable management of both coastal areas and marine environments.


Former coordinator of COBSEA, the UNEP Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia, Dr. Ellik Adler, said that the program’s experience shows that it is critical to train the planners, government authorities and practitioners. He also stressed the importance of local level action in the absence of funds at higher levels of government.

Speakers related when and how coastal environmental protection legislation was enacted in their countries. Pablo Gorostiza Fryeiro of the Foundation Port Institute of Studies and Cooperation of the Valencian Cummunity (FEPORTS) described Spain’s demolition policy. University of Palermo Prof. Francesco Lo Piccolo said that demolition of illegal development along coasts in Italy has occurred only in rare exceptions. Prof. Fatma Unsal, of Turkey’s Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul, stressed that it is “essential” to incorporate ICZM into planning legislation.

PPGIS session at Mare Nostrum Kickoff event
Democritus University of Thrace Prof. Georgios Sylaios described the Coastal Zone Observatory, established as a department within the municipality of Kavala, Greece, which monitors land uses and development pressures, assesses impacts, analyzes legal and administrative obstacles, involves the public and stakeholders through PPGIS and other means, and proposes concrete policy actions.