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Coastal Cities

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Throughout history, people have settled on coasts to take advantage of the amenities the oceans offer – a food supply, a source of transport, a defensible position and a healthy location. However, as coastal cities grow, they become detached from their environmental surroundings, while still requiring services from their local ecosystem. The demands placed on the host ecosystem threaten the viability of the cities themselves. Today, it is estimated that almost 50 per cent of the world’s coasts are threatened by development-related activities. Municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes and run-off, as well as atmospheric deposition, affect the most productive areas of the marine environment, including estuaries and near-shore coastal waters. Physical alterations to the coastal zone also threaten the marine environment [1].


Characteristics of coastal cities

The urbanization of coastal zones has divided them into two main categories: Coastal areas characterized by high density of land uses and those with low building and population density. Their main difference lies in their economic performance. A new urban sprawl is normally developed, spatially following in a linear direction from the coast. This phenomenon is a direct effect of the improvement of transport systems, the increase of living standards and the importance of tourist activities and has led to negative effects on coastal biodiversity, a steady increase on demands for water resources and an increase of waste production and pollution [2]. Urban sprawl has also negatively affected the urban coast’s quality of life, creating a population density that leads to problems concerning employment and exploitation of natural resources [3].

Main characteristics of coastal cities include:

  • Tourist services
  • A street pattern related to the landform and the surrounding natural features
  • A direct relationship to the foreshore and a wide choice of uses associated with the coastal edge
  • An extensive range of edge conditions, such as parks, beaches and waterfront promenades
  • A range of smaller suburbs and suburban centers surrounding the city centre
  • A full range of residential building types
  • A full range of building heights from low scale to tall [4]

Coastal Management and Urban Planning

Coastal management and urban planning seem to act in different contexts without a common ground for an integrated perspective of coastal cities. In particular, urban planning often ignores environmental issues that characterize a coastal ecosystem, creating land use conflicts and environmental aggravations. It is essential for an urban coast to offer a good quality environment for the users avoiding issues such us:

  • Destroying the quality of coastal resources that offer the city its distinct characteristics
  • Impacts on water quality
  • Decrease of opportunities for new urban infrastructure
  • Degraded public spaces
  • Privatization of open spaces and foreshores
  • Lack of planning integration [5].


Cities in coastal areas require a special interest as they constitute important growth poles and gates to the hinterland as well as centers of economic growth involving human activities such as tourism, transport and fishing and sensitive environments and ecosystems [6].

The City of Volos, Greece

The problems that coastal cities have to face might appear similar to the ones that most cities are also trying to overcome. The elements that make coastal cities different are:

  • The complexity of the activities that constitute a coastal city coming from the hinterland, creating (most often) conflicts and influencing their economy in a local and supra local level
  • The planning issues of coastal cities that involve a more integrated approach between urban planning and environmental management (coastal management) [7].

Best practices

By including coastal zone issues in the city’s development plans, an integrated approach could be generated taking into account all the essential matters for the achievement of effective policies for both coastal/marine and urban activities. For example, the joint UN-HABITAT/UNEP Sustainable Cities Programme (SCP) provides support to many coastal cities world wide in their efforts to integrate coastal management into city development strategies [8].

Best practices for coastal cities

  • Protecting the most attractive quality elements of a coastal city
  • Optimizing the efficient land use to minimize impacts on the surrounding urban and natural environment
  • Maintaining the natural geography of the coast
  • Maintaining the coast in connection to the inland (perhaps the city centre)-(best access to the coast, quality of streets etc.)
  • Protecting coastal waters through modern ecological methods
  • Providing sustainable transport systems [9]
  • Regulations governing the industrial, municipal and agricultural pollution [10]
  • Preserving the historic and cultural resources through the process of waterfront/urban regeneration [11]
  • Planning for the waterfront considering it as a part of a coastal (eco)system
  • Optimizing coastal cities as a separate entity of the region that requires a more complex approach, including environmental policies/aspects

Coastal Cities Challenges

  • Increase in population. Sixty percent of the world’s population already lives in coastal areas, while 65 percent of cities with populations above 2.5 million are located along the world coasts
  • Seaward widening of the waterfront. Recent experience has proved that even artificial islands hosting human activities can be built out of nothing
  • Changes in waterfronts (regeneration) could lead to upgrading ports and coastal areas and reduce or enlarge the range of economic inter-regional and international relationships of the city port [12]
  • Confrontation of service issues (e.g. transportation)
  • Predictions about natural risks
  • Urban sprawl control/restrictions
  • Integration of urban planning with the concept of Sustainable Development
  • Integration of urban planning with Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)
  • Co-operation between private and public sector
  • Protection of ‘hot spots’
  • Protection of coastal resources [13]
  • Innovative approaches to existing policy areas

References

  1. http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/getPage.asp?page=promoView&promo=2227
  2. Laboratory of Environment and Spatial Planning (2005)Towards an Urban Regeneration Policy in Coastal Mediterranean Cities, University of Thessaly-General Secretariat for Research and Technology, Ministry of Development, 23-5
  3. Laboratory of Environment and Spatial Planning (2005)Towards an Urban Regeneration Policy in Coastal Mediterranean Cities, University of Thessaly-General Secretariat for Research and Technology, Ministry of Development, 28
  4. http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/plansforaction/pdf/11COASTALCITIES.pdf
  5. http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/plansforaction/pdf/11COASTALCITIES.pdf
  6. Ministry of Physical Planning, Environment and Public Works (2003) Planning for Coastal Areas and Cities in Europe, International High-level Conference, Hellenic Presidency of the European Union, Hersonissos, Crete-Greece
  7. Nanouri E. (2003) Coastal areas and cities- A Common Approach of the UDG Members Initiated by the Greek Presidency, Ministry of Physical Planning, Environment and Public Works, Hellenic Presidency of the European Union
  8. http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/getPage.asp?page=promoView&promo=2227
  9. http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/plansforaction/pdf/11COASTALCITIES.pdf
  10. http://www.unhabitat.org/pmss/getPage.asp?page=promoView&promo=2227
  11. Vallega A. (2001) Urban Waterfront Facing Integrated Coastal Management, Ocean and Coastal Management, 44, pp.399
  12. Vallega A. (2001) Urban Waterfront Facing Integrated Coastal Management, Ocean and Coastal Management, 44, pp.398-400
  13. Laboratory of Environment and Spatial Planning (2005)Towards an Urban Regeneration Policy in Coastal Mediterranean Cities, University of Thessaly-General Secretariat for Research and Technology, Ministry of Development, 30-1
The main author of this article is Papatheochari, Dora
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.