Integrated Coastal Management Act is helping to turn the tide for SA

2010-07-09 13:54

South Africa’s coast is a valuable resource.

This unique part of the environment is the meeting place of the land and sea – a limited space that supports diverse ecosystems and many human activities.

If you had to divide its length of about 3 000 km by the population of the country, which is around 50 million people, and every person in

South Africa was to walk down to the beach they would only have a mere 6 cm of space to occupy!

What is the ICM Act?

The Integrated Coastal Management Act (Act No 24 of 2008) was developed in line with international requests to ensure the best use of this country’s coast, while at the same time preserving eco¬systems and not putting people and property at risk.

The ICM Act is a major step forward in managing the coast and the first law of its kind in South Africa that promotes coordinated and integrated management and sustainable use of the country’s coastal resources.

The law represents an important shift in people’s thinking towards the shared use of these resources by all South African citizens. The ICM Act also aims to provide fair and unbiased access to the rich and diverse coastline, and the use of its resources in a way that is ecologically, socially and economically sustainable.

What does the ICM Act do?

The purpose of the ICM Act is to:
•    define the coastal zone;
•    provide for the coordinated and integrated management of the coast;
•    preserve and protect the coastal environment as the heritage of all and;
•    ensure there is equal access to coastal public property for all.

What is the coastal zone?

The ICM Act has set a national definition that is very important for regulations that arise from a common understanding of the boundaries of the coastal zone.

Without a clear, consistent understanding of what the coastal zone is, there would be a lot of uncertainty about management and regulation of human activity. Chapters of the law introduce new and useful concepts and highlight the important management units of the coast, its owner¬ship and the responsibility of the state.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) and estuaries

The Department of Environmental Affairs is responsible for the management of South Africa’s 20 MPAs and 255 functioning estuaries.
MPAs are important for:
•    ensuring the conservation of species and their habitats;
•    fisheries management; and
•    managing various groups that use MPAs for recreational or commercial purposes.

Managing agencies such as Simangaliso, SAN Parks, EKZNW, EC Parks and Cape¬Nature help the department with management and they provide the capacity to address the areas of awareness and education, planning, compliance and monitoring within MPAs. MPAs also provide opportunities for marine eco-tourism such as scuba diving, boat-based whale watching and the white shark cage diving industry, by providing a safe and regulated environment where tourists can see undisturbed marine life.

What are estuaries?

Estuaries are any body of water that has a connection to the ocean, and is permanently or sometimes open to the sea.

Estuaries are highly productive eco¬systems, and provide many important ecological functions that have important benefits for people, but they are sensitive to human impacts.

Protecting coastal resources

Coastal ecosystems provide many opportunities that make a big contribution to the economy, while also sustaining coastal communities.

That’s why it’s necessary to maintain the maximum amount of free goods and services that these ecosystems can provide.

Through the ICM Act, activities that may be harmful to coastal resources are controlled, and the ecological well being of the coastal zone can be maintained.

Marine and coastal pollution control

Both the coastal ecosystem and human health is negatively affected by pollution.

The ICM Act addresses many issues relating to coastal pollution including:
•    the management of the discharge of waste water or sewage into coastal waters;
•    the forbidding of incineration and dumping at sea; and
•    the application for dumping permits, should need be.

The Act states the mea¬sures to be taken in case, and due to specific reasons, emergency dumping at sea has to take place.

The Act also controls the permissible discharge of waste water or sewage into coastal or estuary waters in two ways.

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