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Background: Coastal areas are commonly defined as the interface or transition areas between land and sea, including large inland lakes. Coastal areas are diverse in function and form, dynamic and do not lend themselves well to definition by strict spatial boundaries.

Coastal resources management includes a wide array of management practices such as: land-use planning; legal, administrative and institutional execution; demarcation on the ground; inspection and control of adherence to decisions; solution of land tenure issues; settling of water rights; issuing of concessions for plant, animal and mineral extraction (e.g. wood and non-wood products, fishery resources, hunting, peat); and safeguarding of the rights of different interest groups (e.g. traditional and indigenous people, women).

Coastal area management is too complex to be handled by traditional sectoral planning and management. To be effective, planning for integrated coastal area management (ICAM) must be coordinated between sectoral implementing agencies. A balanced management perspective is needed in which intersectoral relationships are fully understood, trade-offs recognized and anticipated, benefits and alternatives critically assessed, appropriate management interventions identified and implemented, and necessary institutional and organizational arrangements worked out. This is the essence of ICAM.

Agriculture Sector: Agriculture in coastal areas often plays an important role and, as elsewhere, it occupies the major share of available land. Coastal areas often provide excellent soil and climatic conditions for agriculture. Apart from its evident function in providing food to coastal populations, agriculture also often provides raw materials to industry, which may be established in the area to make the most of port facilities. Agricultural products may find markets in the tourism sector, although this is not always as strong a link as is sometimes assumed. Agriculture also provides livelihoods for coastal populations, including those of coastal cities.

Fisheries Sector: The fisheries sector depends on the coastal area in a variety of ways, both directly (e.g. resources and space) and indirectly (e.g. factors affecting biological productivity). This makes the sector particularly susceptible to land- and sea-based activities that have an impact on the coastal environment. To a lesser degree, the sector also generates negative effects on other activities that are concentrated on the coastal area. While many of the interactions within the fisheries sector and between the sector and other activities (e.g. agriculture, forestry and tourism) are of a competitive or antagonistic nature, a number of complementary interactions may also exist. If the fisheries sector is to make an optimal contribution to economic and social welfare, these interactions must be taken into account and the development and management of fisheries integrated within the wider context of coastal area management.

Forestry Sector: Forest resources (including wildlife) are substantially different from agricultural or fishery resources. Furthermore, forest resources in coastal areas are frequently so different from their inland counterparts as to require different and special approaches to management and conservation.

Effects of tsunami: On 26 December 2004 a massive earthquake of magnitude 9.0 occurred off the west coast of Northern Sumatra, followed by a series of aftershocks that triggered a tsunami (tidal waves) throughout the region. The massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami waves caused extensive damage to coastal communities principally in the southern Bay of Bengal. Rapid assessments carried out by FAO immediately after the disaster confirmed that the fisheries sector was the worst hit by the calamity. However, crop and livestock, as well as coastal eco-systems including mangroves and other crop trees, also suffered serious damages.

The challenge: In all countries affected by the tsunami, the immediate priority of each country is to attend to the emergency created by the tsunami followed by efforts to rehabilitate and reconstruct. The main objectives of the latter are to ensure that agriculture, fisheries and forestry-based livelihoods are protected, rehabilitated and enhanced in a sustainable manner. ICAM provides an opportunity to build back better livelihoods in the tsunami zone.


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Peter A. C. Ooi (FAO Bangkok) - Peter.Ooi@fao.org
Thierry Facon (FAO Bangkok) Thierry.facon@fao.org
Gamini Keerthisinghe (FAO Bangkok) Gamini.Keerthisinghe@fao.org

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