In order to optimize coastal management along the Mediterranean’s shores, educating the public effectively and adapting protocols to local needs will be crucial, experts agreed at a conference on Wednesday.
“It’s really the same problems that come up all the time – over-development, construction, tourism, cutting off access to the coast,” said Dr. Rachel Adam, an environmental law researcher and consultant.
“Apparently all the local municipalities have the same problems – the question is how to solve them.”
Adam was addressing participants of the Mare Nostrum project, a cross-border Mediterranean preservation initiative led by a Technion-Israel Institute of Technology professor and funded by the EU.
The three-year project received a €4.3 million grant from the EU in April 2013 to develop mechanisms for protecting the Mediterranean’s coastline, as part of the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument’s Cross-Border Cooperation Mediterranean Program.
Project participants gathered at the Technion on Wednesday, under the umbrella of the Planning, Law and Property Rights conference, to discuss their progress in the past year.
The project aims to bridge the legal and institutional gap in the implementation of the Mediterranean Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) protocol, and involves partners from Israel, Jordan, Malta, Greece and Spain, as well as advisers from Turkey, Germany, Italy and Australia.
At the project’s launch, participants identified a lack of institutional coordination, insufficient legal mechanisms and existing property rights as the main impediments toward implementing a more cohesive cross-border plan for preserving the Mediterranean coast.
“Everything you touch on a coastline is very political,” said Adam, who serves as the project manager for Mare Nostrum.
“The key challenge is really, how do we change the behaviors of states? Can law or planning do it?” The Mare Nostrum members are aiming to do just that, “to create resilient Mediterranean towns and cities” in a region that faces many challenges to sustainable development – such as socioeconomic gaps, tourism popularity, politics and trade and energy hubs, Adam explained.
“The Mediterranean region is an example of unsustainable development, and we have a rapidly widening ecological deficit,” Adam said, noting that about 40 percent of the Mediterranean coastline is covered with concrete.
Due to the multifaceted challenges of the region and its coasts, it is not good enough to simply adopt the policies of the ICZM without tailoring implementation plans to fit varying local needs, explained Prof.
Rachelle Alterman, the Mare Nostrum project’s initiator.
“Compliance along the Mediterranean isn’t necessarily so good,” said Alterman, who is also the David Azrieli chair of architecture and town planning at the Technion and the founding president of the International Academic Association on Planning, Law and Property Rights.
Among the key elements of the ICZM protocol are recommending building prohibitions within at least 100 meters from the shores, permitting the public purchase of private beach lands, opening public access to coastlines, allocating financial resources and gearing institutional structures toward implementation, said Alterman.
Despite having similar problems, because all of the localities have varying laws and development situations, the Mare Nostrum project is calling for “incremental improvement from each jurisdiction’s current baseline,” Alterman said.
Meanwhile, it is preferable to focus on the local municipal adaptations of the ICZM protocol rather than the national adaptation, she added.
As far as the Mare Nostrum’s progress in its first of three years is concerned, the members have finished “package” four of eight, which involved each partner submitting reviews of their national laws pertaining to the coastline, as well as descriptions of the respective environmental conditions, according to Adam.
The partners are now approaching the end of package five, which has involved local case studies of coastal issues in Alexandroupolis, Greece; Kavala, Greece; Valletta, Malta; Valencia, Spain; and Haifa.
In Haifa’s case, the participants are looking at the situation of Bat Galim, the city’s oldest coastal neighborhood and home to residential neighborhoods directly on the beach, Adam explained. Today, many of these small, decaying homes are being replaced by larger buildings.
Because Bat Galim is a historical neighborhood, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is calling for a comprehensive plan for the entire neighborhood that takes into account its special location and its legacy value, SPNI Haifa director Ela Alexandrei said.
As it stands, Israelis only have approximately 2.5 centimeters of coast per person in the country, with only 197 kilometers of coast, she added.
Upon completing package five with the local case studies, for the next 12 months the Mare Nostrum members will perform packages six and seven simultaneously, developing a “toolkit” for improving implementation, and Public Participation Geographical Information Systems to harness public participation in the same five localities.
In the third and final year, Adam said, the partners will run a pilot project – probably in Kavala – in order to implement both the toolkit and the PPGIS in order to see how they function.
Ultimately, however, she stressed that cooperation and involvement with the public would remain key to the program’s success.