By X.I. Loizidou Coastal Engineer, Member of the Network for a Sustainable Future.
Islands such as Cyprus have their development mainly concentrated in coastal zones. According to the Euro-Code for Coastal Zones, the width of a costal zone is 50 km inland from the coastline. This means that almost the entire island of Cyprus is considered as a coastal zone!
Coastal Zones are among the most fragile natural ecosystems, extremely vulnerable to human intervention. Multiple and complex parameters coexist and interact within the dynamic coastal system: natural, social, economic etc. It is a precious natural resource under threat due to overexploitation and increasing human pressures: 2/3 of the human population of the planet live near a coastline. In Europe , over 1/3 of the population lives within 50 km from the coastline. In the Mediterranean , more than 143 million people live along the coastline. It is estimated that 50% of the Mediterranean coasts will be the victims of construction until 2025 (European Environment Agency). The European Union is therefore concerned about the future of its 100,000 km of coastline.
In Cyprus, economic development results in extreme pressures on the coastal and marine environments all around the island. What are the limits to such development? The carrying capacity of coastal ecosystems is not infinite, and therefore they are in danger of collapse as a result of all this human activity. Is there anything to be done to reverse this situation of decline?
A major requirement for promoting and achieving sustainable forms of development is to ensure the effective participation of citizens throughout the decision-making process. All citizens, according to Aarhus Convention, have the right for free access to environmental information and data. Authorities are obliged to provide the infrastructure and the support for their participation in the decision-making process, which will define the future of each area and the development model that is going to be implemented.
This is the context that led to the implementation of the project “Network for a sustainable future”. The aim of the project, which started in January 2007 and which lasts for 20 months, is to promote effective partnership and networking among NGOs/CSOs in Cyprus and organizations from Mediterranean, EU and other countries, on issues related to environment, sustainable development and stakeholder participation processes. For more information visit AKTI’s website. An electronic Help Desk operates throughout the project, providing information on sustainable development issues in Cyprus and in Europe and which is available for all citizens.
The project forms part of the Cyprus Environmental Stakeholder Forum, an island-wide environmental platform supported by UNDP – ACT.