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.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mare Nostrum receives €4.3 million EU grant for Med coast preservation

The Mare Nostrum Mediterranean coast conservation project received €4.3 million in funding from the European Union (EU).

The 3-year project will explore new ways of enhancing policy to improve the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of the Mediterranean coastline, in light of the EU Barcelona Convention’s Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean (ICZM).

Mare Nostrum received the EU award through the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument - Cross-Border Cooperation in the Mediterranean (ENPI-CBCMED).

“The project’s primary goal is to contribute to bridging the gap between the ideals of coastal zone management and its actual effects on the ground at the local, national and cross-border levels,” said Mare Nostrum initiator and coordinator Prof. Rachelle Alterman of the Israel’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Mare Nostrum’s strategy is to identify successes on the ground in handling ostensibly local obstacles to implementation, and using insights gained to inform policy improvements around the Mediterranean basin and create new tools for ICZM, she added.

“Mare Nostrum 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,” Prof. Alterman commented.

Mare Nostrum brings together representatives from 11 partners: the Technion, 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.

In its first year, Mare Nostrum will conduct baseline research and data collection, compile case studies and develop communications tools. In 2014 the partners will design and implement participatory GIS, develop a policy Toolkit, and hold workshops with local stakeholders and a think tank conference.

In the last year of the grant cycle, Mare Nostrum plans to implement a pilot involving stakeholders, and draft model legislation for cross-national use. Mare Nostrum participants will also examine the feasibility of establishing a Mediterranean ICZM Action Forum to interface with relevant bodies globally and allow the project to continue to evolve thereafter.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mare Nostrum partners explore Israel's coastline

Representatives of Mare Nostrum partner organizations spent the first day of the project's “kickoff meeting” touring Israel's coastline from north to south, in what project head Prof. Rachelle Alterman described as the “first-ever” tour of Israel's coastline focused on law, spatial planning and regulation.

Rosh Hanikra 
Israel's coastline extends some 200 km, from Rosh Hanikra on the border with Lebanon in the north to Gaza in the south. In that relatively limited area, multiple uses compete for space, with some 150 km either already built or planned for use. Approximately three-quarters of Israel's fast-growing population lives in urban areas along the coast, making cities and other residential areas a major contributor to development pressure along the Mediterranean. Military installations, infrastructure, nature preserves and other uses make up the rest.

The day began in the north, at Rosh Hanikra. Conference participants took a cable car down to the grottoes underneath the border, where a ranger from Israel's Nature and Parks Authority described the challenges of protecting that part of Israel's marine environment. Current and proposed regulations for “protected areas” were discussed, as well as the implications for marine flora and fauna of military activities and recent discoveries of natural gas deposits.

Heading south, the members heard from Nir Papai, of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), about the struggle for the Beztet beach (similar to the more famous  Palmahim beach near Ashkelon). There, environmentalists managed to roll back developers' plans for resort construction.

In Haifa, the group heard back-to-back presentations by the COO of the Israel Ports Authority Dov Frohlinger and planners from the Kishon Stream Authority. While the two organizations' offices are located in the same compound, where the Kishon estuary meets the Haifa port and marina, they are locked in a conflict over plans to expand the port. The port's management wants to use the banks of the stream, beyond the 10 meters on each bank protected by law, for storage of shipping containers, while the Stream Authority is pushing for that area to become a public park.  An interim compromise has been reached for widening the protected zone, but the issue is still before the national planning authorities.

Ela Alexandri of SPNI discussed some of the environmental issues and conflicts along the City of Haifa’s coastline. These include a conflict over plans to electrify the train, whose tracks divide the city from its seafront; civic activists and city hall have proposed an alternative plan to move the train underground so as to enable a pedestrian connection to the seafront.  Later in the week, head city planner Ariel Waterman would tell the group that Haifa's connection with the sea is the most pressing planning issue on the city's agenda and that city hall has been making great efforts to convince the Ports Authority to open at least part of its premises to the public.

The next stop on the tour was Netanya, where chief planner Paul Vital took the group on a bus tour of some of the coastal city's new neighborhoods. He spoke about the city's efforts to clean up a massive garbage dump, built right on the coastline, and replace it with public green spaces and limited real estate. Vital also showed the group around a memorial for Red Army veterans, built inside a coastal park and inaugurated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Vital, who was born in Greece, chatted with the group's large Greek delegation in their native tongue.

 Paul Vital tells Mare Nostrum reps about future plans for the coastal city
The final stop of the tour was in Herzliya, where Prof. Alterman spoke about the city's marina, approved in the 1990s with “vacation apartments,” a quasi-legal designation invented to soften the prohibition on building apartments adjacent to the coastline. Over the years, the question of vacation apartments has been repeatedly challenged in the courts, but it remains something of a gray area. This and similar legal loopholes which facilitate development on the coast were familiar to many of the project’s partners.