Coastal zone management in developing countries with Kenya as a particular example

Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) is a modern environmentalist discourse. As such ICZM should be understood as a social and political struggle over crucial coastal resources and a struggle over the symbolic power to define how and by whom “coastal problems” should be understood and resolved.

ICZM is part of a trend of increasing globalisation and institutionalisation of environmental concerns, which took on after the end of the 1960s. One of the striking characteristics of this trend is the inequalities in terms of political power to decide how environmental problems are defined and resolved. In the case of ICZM, developing countries are put under great pressure to change their coastal management policies and practices – either bilaterally by national donors and NGOs or through international organisations like the UN or the World Bank.

The ICZM literature represents an international orthodoxy about ICZM principles, dimensions, and steps in the cycle of program development, including the following principles:

  • Vertical and horizontal integration among agencies of governance
  • Projects should proceed according to certain phases/steps (e.g. issue identification and assessment; plan preparation; adoption; implementation; evaluation)
  • Public participation in decision-making and management
  • In-built capacity building (e.g. adaptive learning-based coastal management)

In practice, these principles are seldom realised due to a combination of inadequate financial commitment, insufficient time and spatial scales of ICZM projects, and unclear governance relations and power struggles. Most ICZM projects and programs are concentrated on either bio¬physical or governance aspects of ICZM, which are rarely properly integrated. Likewise, the scientific articles that analyse these projects tend to focus on either bio-physical or governance aspects of ICZM. This means that projects are mostly described and evaluated from a single disciplinary perspective.

ICZM experiences in Kenya resemble those from other developing countries. A major step forwards came with the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (EMCA) of 1999, which provides the necessary legislative background for establishing a progressive ICZM. While achievements have occurred in a few local sites near Mombasa, the current situation is that ICZM is hindered by: inconsistencies and contradictions between different Acts; lack of detailed guidelines under the EMCA; lack of horizontal and vertical integration in Government institutions; unresolved land tenure and land rights statuses and disputes; lack of knowledge and planning capacity in Government institutions; limited public participation in ICZM.

While the new institutions established under the EMCA such as the District Environmental Committees (DECs) hold great potential in terms of public participation and horizontal and vertical integration of coastal management, the study of one DEC in Malindi District showed that there is no communication between different DECs, nor is there collaboration between this DEC and the Provincial Environmental Committee in Coast Province.

Mostly, the DEC deals with environmental impact assessments and very little coastal planning and data collection is done. Still, with better data and planning tools available the active Malindi DEC could be realise its potential.

Download the entire report: 2008_coastal_zone.pdf


Lotte Isager

2006 – 2007