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Eastern Africa Atlas of Coastal Resources: Kenya
(1998). Eastern Africa Atlas of Coastal Resources: Kenya. United Nations Environment Programme: Nairobi. ISBN 92-807-1447-3. ix, 114 pp.

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    Kenya has over 600 kilometres of coastline and this is one of the most important components of our nation’s rich heritage. The highly productive ecosystems found in our coastal areas play a crucial role in the economic and social development of our country. As in many other coastal nations, the earliest permanent settlements in Kenya sprang up along the coastal fringe. Maritime trade and ease of communication were among the most important driving forces in the establishment of coastal settlements which flourished around the natural ports and sheltered waters of the Kenya coast. Until recently, the Kenya coast retained its predominantly trade-oriented focus. But in the last three decades there has been a distinct shift to service-oriented activities focused on the tourism and visitor industry. This transformation has in turn led to economic growth, a rapid increase in population and the establishment of other industrial enterprises. Unfortunately, population pressures and industrial and tourism developments place heavy demands on coastal habitats and ecological resources, and often result in natural resource depletion, environmental degradation and conflicts over the use of these valuable but vulnerable resources. This has direct consequences for those who live in the coastal region as well as for the nation as a whole and cannot be left to resolve itself. The process of development must be managed and environmental information is an essential ingredient for sound decision-making and sustainable resource use. Kenyan decision-makers, administrators, planners, resource managers and their scientific advisers, need access to comprehensive environmental information in order to help bridge the gap between scientific understanding of Kenya’s coastal processes and sound management of the environment. Lack of accessible data can seriously impair the capacity to make informed decisions affecting the management of the environment and the course of national development. An Atlas such as this, designed specifically to our needs, was long overdue. We are indebted to the Water Branch and GRID-Nairobi of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and to the Belgian Government for making such a project possible and to the various Kenyan institutions that provided the raw material to make it happen. I am particularly pleased to note the key role that local institutions have played in this project. I believe that all Kenyans will find the Atlas valuable. Our need for readily available information will grow as we move from simple exploitation of coastal resources to an approach embodying a pre-emptive and predictive planning process, comprehensive and sound management strategies and the critical integration and coordination of planning with implementation as endorsed by Agenda 21 of the UNCED Conference in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. I therefore welcome this atlas as a major contribution to the sustainable development of coastal resources in Kenya and Eastern Africa.

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