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The need for sustainable development has become increasingly important in coastal areas, as 60 % of the world's population is expected to be living in coastal areas by 2005.

Coastal areas are exceptionally productive environments, rich in natural resources, biological diversity and potential for commercial activity. But coastal areas are increasingly vulnerable to stress from both human activities and the forces of nature. Due to the complexity of human activities, natural systems and ownership in the coastal zone, an integrated management scheme is needed to allocate coastal resources efficiently and minimize environmental degradation. Choices have to be made between competing uses, and limits to resource exploitation must be set, if escalating conflicts and resource degradation are to be avoided.

Planning for sustainable resource management is based on weighing priorities, translating these priorities into policies, and finally defining goals. A management plan defines the steps required to achieve these goals, identifies the entities responsible for each step and establishes a time frame for action and review.

In order to practise effective coastal management, planners need to understand how natural environment and human activities are interconnected to form a system. Key aspects of the system include the environmental processes that create coastal ecosystems and maintain their health and productivity, the functioning of coastal ecosystems, the flows of resources that coastal systems generate, the potential use of these resources to fulfil social and economic development objectives, and the type and extent of existing and future conflicts in resource use within the context of changing social, economic and political circumstances.


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