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Sustainable development requires accurate risk assessment and wise decision-making. An evaluation is required of the cost of reducing risks set against the benefits arising from reduced risk. Within coastal zone management this can be achieved most effectively by means of a co-ordinated approach to analysing and managing environmental risks; involving planning, adequate insurance and minimising risks to vulnerable communities by:

  • Identifying and understanding the nature and extent of environmental risks in coastal locations;
  • Guiding development towards the most suitable locations;
  • Ensuring that existing and future developments are not exposed to unacceptable risks; and
  • Ensuring that development does not increase the risk for the rest of the community.

Much of the work on risk assessment and management has focused on effects to human health, rather than the environment or specific elements of the environment. However, within the coastal zone many efforts to understand and reduce risk are associated with both the management of continuous processes and the implementation of individual projects or developments. The intention of this module is therefore to illustrate how environmental risk assessment can be used as a technical application appropriate to the management of the coastal zone.

Risk and hazard management is a general technique that has been developed for use as part of the operation and maintenance of the CZM process. The technique involves assessing the probability of risks associated with a defined hazard and evaluating the consequences. Hazards on the coast can be natural or man-made. Thus, a severe storm or a proposed development in an environmentally sensitive coastal area can both be considered as potential hazards. The technique is helpful in determining the most appropriate location and design of structures in the coastal zone.


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