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.