Ridge to Reef – An integrated Approach for Coast, Water and Livelihood

Human pressure has changed the physical and ecological characteristics of coastal zones for centuries. For nearly 40 years, there have been concerted efforts to improve management of the diverse human pressures that have led to deterioration of coastal environments. Since 1992, Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) has been a dominant policy paradigm for bringing together relevant sectors of society to overcome conflicts of resource use and to pursue sustainable development. There is growing evidence that, with some exceptions, these efforts were not much effectives due to extreme climate events and lack of integration with water resources management. Another reason is economic and social changes to people. There are also issues with the way the process has been interpreted, often with soft recommendations and guidelines and unclear overall goals. The time has come to take a fresh look at the future of our coastal zones integrating water resources, balancing economic development, conservation and adaptation to inevitable change. Reexamination of system scales and adoption of ‘Ridge to Reef” approach offers real perspectives for finding a way forward.

Many coastal areas and river basins worldwide are flood prone due to heavy rainfall and cyclonic storm surge. Keeping the risk of flooding at an acceptable level is an ongoing challenge. Nowadays the range of options to mitigate flood risk is becoming more diverse, varying from non-structural measures, such as early warning systems and zoning, to traditional structural measures, such as levees, dams, flood detention areas and pumping stations. The impact of structural measures on natural processes is large and often results in undesirable side effects, such as land subsidence or disturbance of ecosystem functioning and a loss of ecosystem services, with large consequences for local communities. Therefore, the potential of more nature-based flood defense solutions, such as oyster reefs salt marshes and mangroves, that are thought not to have such negative effects on the natural environment, is actively being explored. Studies should explore strong case for application of nature-based defenses and integrating water, coastal and livelihood based defenses.

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