Approaches to and tools for managing environmental conflicts in coastal zones in Africa: Challenges and prospects in relation to Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)
AbstractConflicts in coastal zones arise as a result of the variance between divergent interests, within limited and dynamic socio-spatial and ecological dimensions, with little effort at critical consensus. Coastal zones worldwide exhibit three classical internal trademarks – high pressures for development, management weaknesses to protect coastal ecosystems and the deterioration of environmental conditions – all of which exacerbate conflicts over use and access of coastal zones. These conflicts are further expected to intensify against the backdrop of global climate change, with their location specific manifestations and impacts. Coastal zones in Africa are particularly vulnerable, as burgeoning population increases and rapid economic growth compound pressures on and intensify conflicts over scarce/stressed resources. Furthermore, the situation is particularly acute as deteriorating environmental conditions impede social and economic development, and are linked to the pervasiveness of hunger, poverty and
disease, which engage in a vicious cycle of environmental conflicts. As coastal environments become excessively anthropocentric, ecological dimensions cannot obviate the impact of human behaviour. Integrated approaches present powerful frameworks for analysing human-environmental conflicts, understood as ecological change, together with human knowledge and practice. Efforts at conflict resolution should be aimed at improving environmental conditions in tandem with improving the level of technical skill and capacity to mitigate environmental degradation. The challenge is to balance the need for short-term gains with long-term integrated resource management, heralded as Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). This article examines the challenges and prospects for approaches and tools to manage environmental conflicts in Africa’s coastal zones.