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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

ICZM: Coastal Management through Integration of Knowledge and Technology

Posted By: Makram A. Gerges
Date: Friday, 9 June 2000, at 8:01 p.m.

In Response To: Elaboration needed (R. Sudarshana)

Reaction To: "Operationalizing" sustainable coastal development/Alexandria-Egypt (Samir Riad), AND In Response To: Elaboration needed (R. Sudarshana)

In the following few points, while reacting to Riad's "operationalizing" article, I will try to respond to Sudarshana's comments on the article, and to his request for elaboration on the subject. I will do this in as much detail as my knowledge of the project in question allows, and by making the best use of my previous involvement in other coastal zone management (CZM) projects elsewhere, outside my home country (Egypt) and home city (Alexandria).

1. The proposed Alexandria project for the coastal management of the Qayet Bay/Eastern Harbour of Alexandria through sustainable "operational" approach, should be seen in the larger context of integrated CZM strategy for Alexandria, where sustainable development of environment, resources, cultural heritage, and all other human activities in the coastal zone of Alexandria (shoreline of more than 100 kilometers) could be effectively achieved. Multidisciplinarity and the multisectoral approach, which is the key to this and other pilot projects of CSI, could, and should, yield tangible results from collective action and through applying hands-on approach to integrated coastal management.

2. While the said project focuses on the question of underwater archaeology in the Eastern Harbour of Alexandria because of its international fame, historical value and its potential for development into a "submarine museum", it also takes into account other important elements such as environment, urban development (sewage system), security and other recreational uses of the location. The long list of partners mentioned in Riad's article is a testimony to this. In addition, an important stakeholder here will be the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) which (according to the legal national policy of the country) is officially charged with the overall responsibility of ICZM in Egypt, and which acts as the coordinating body of all environmental activities in the country.

3. Indeed, the right approach to tackle this problem will be the development of a more comprehensive strategy and action plan for the integrated management of this area as part of the Greater Alexandria Area, so that we can, as much as possible, avoid typical conflicts that may occur such as the incompatible uses which cannot co-exist in harmony. Relevant example in this particular case is the conflict between the recreation activities (there are at least 5 private clubs that use the waters, the beaches and amenities of the Eastern Harbour: the Marine Scouts Club, the Yacht Club, The Greek Club, the Alexandria University Club, and the Hunting Club), the fisheries activities (there exists a shipyard for building and maintenance of fishing boats, and many small-size fishing boats take the Harbour as a base or shelter), and the sewage system which discharges into the vicinity of Qayet Bay.

4. In this context, modern information technologies and data integration methods could indeed provide an effective management tool. Whether the potentials of these technologies and methods led to evolving the principles of this project or not, technologies such as remote sensing and the Geographic Information System (GIS) ought to be used in this project to produce resources maps of the area under consideration. Managers, stakeholders and decision-makers would need such comprehensive (integrated) database on a simple (user- friendly) map giving them a holistic view of the resources, the demands, and the various direct and indirect relationships. With the help of such maps, decision-makers would seek a wise balance between the many conflicting demands being made on the coastal area in question, ensuring that its limits of tolerance and its capacity for sustainability are not exceeded. If an "Operational" project could achieve this tangible result, it would succeed in achieving an integrated management of the area, and hence its main objective. As Riad rightly said in his article "Effective coastal management must be based on a solid scientific foundation .....". But to the solid scientific foundation, I would like to add "integrated information".

5. Regarding the perceived future threats to the site, it is essential that the project takes into account the global/regional and the local environmental changes which are likely to threaten the site and its sustainability. Obviously, the expected climate change and the associated sea-level rise is an important element here, and, perhaps, is the most relevant factor to be considered in this respect. Also, the well-documented phenomenon of land subsidence is another important factor to consider. Advanced knowledge and technology of modelling should be practiced and applied in this case for the various climate change scenarios combined with the land subsidence phenomena.

6. Certainly, experience gained (successes and failures) of such a project, being unique of its kind in the region, should be transferable to other places. The Alexandria project is, in my opinion, replicable and suitable for other parts of the world, where similar conditions prevail. This is specially so at least in the Mediterranean region, where a number of other locations enjoy similar cultural heritage of underwater archaeology. Examples are in the vicinity of the Port of Sabratha in Libya, in Greece and in Italy.

7. With respect to public participation, I entirely agree that this is an important element of such projects, which closely relate to people's interests. At its early stage of planning, the project should evaluate, through a series of public hearings perhaps, the people's opinion of the project's venture, its positive and negative impacts on the environment and its likely implications for them and their interests in the area. This would, no doubt, ensure public support for the project through the provision of feedback to the project planners and sponsors before the project enters into the execution phase.

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