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Jacques Daligaux
p. 5-6

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1Coastal areas are complex and fragile environments, particularly sensitive to the effects of climatic change and anthropogenic activities, and are subjected to considerable economic, ecological and patrimonialinfluences. Among the spatial elements, the coastline is the most coveted, rare, fragile, and exposed, and and the future and the daily management of these areas expose all the fears and expectations that exist. “Protecting the people and sustaining the town” should therefore begin here rather than elsewhere.

2The coastal zone also portrays a remarkable scenario of technical and legal innovations, as well as an elected social and political watchdog. This is why we needed to establish an exchange of differing disciplinal viewpoints between humanists and geographers on urbanization and environmental protection; geographers and physicists on the decline and the defense of the coastline, and jurists’ viewpoints on the evolution of legal tools that constitute the natural risk or planning. We also hoped that this legal/geographical approach would be present in the majority of the  humanist and geographers’ contributions, with a more in-depth analysis of the normative framework and governance. We believe that this is an area of reflection for the future,testified to by the young age of the authors, and which will require a lasting rapprochement between the two disciplines.

3Moreover, the Mediterranean shores share a common history and destiny, and despite the spacio-temporal shifts and a considerable cultural and geographical diversity, they face the same problems, attempt to meet the same challenges whilst often running up against the same resistance. The choice therefore, was based on a wide international openness, in the spirit and tradition of the magazine. The objective was to highlight neither the national particularities and idiosyncracies, nor the Mediterranean characteristics, but to identify how to spread awareness, build projects and to establish tentative answers.

Urban planning and land management

4The countries on the northern shores have been pretty well covered, and  it will therefore be possible to observe the difficult application of the “Coastal” laws in France, Spain and Italy. A contribution on Corsica depicts an insular Mediterranean area at a crossroads. Moreover, a president of an Administrative Tribunal has given us an unusual and iconoclastic analysis of the Coastal Law  and its juridical occurrences. The task has proved more difficult on the southern and eastern shores, where the interaction between urban dynamics and legal framework has rarely been explored, in a political context that is often difficult and/or is undergoing transformation.   After much research and several proposed texts, only two caught our attention. It can be seen how, in Tunisia and Morocco, the late emergence of a new legal framework, inspired by northern Mediterranean models, is struggling to control staggering environmental damage. With this perspective on the two shores, two ideas have emerged. Firstly, lawyers are well aware that the law inevitably ends by following social expectations. The diffusion of the “Coastal” laws, previously concerning the northern shores, and today the southern shores, attests to this. Nevertheless, the law is only effective if it is well governed. Yet, it is precisely the “lack of state”, prominent in the West, that corresponds to “excessive state intervention” that persists in developing countries. This problem, once resolved, will help the problems concerned with Integrated Coastal Zone Management. Secondly, the balance between protection and development is still finding its way, despite the political incantations, the international conventions and the pressure of big funding bodies. In Mediterranean areas that have been deeply affected by the economic crisis, the environment has certainly become a social concern and a political reality, but is clearly weighted against socio-economic development. If the most blatant shifts appear to have elapsed, no viable alternative is yet taking shape against the dominant model of tourism and urban development.

The defence of the coastline

5The emphasis has, above all, been placed on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. The northern shore has indeed been the subject of several previous publications in the journal “Mediterranean”, while the North African shores, now having been well studied, suffered from a lack of available information. In addition, these territories are subject to urban and touristic development that is often poorly controlled and without prior consultation with natural environmental specialists.

6The Tunisian coast, which has undergone touristic development over several decades, has allowed a comprehensive review to be drawn up, showing that the impact of this evolution is not very encouraging.The study includes comprehensive demographic, urban and geotechnical data responding implicitly, but bluntly, to the question “would it indeed sustain the city?” Otherwise the outcome would result in a counter-productive situation and the disappearance of natural beaches. More recently, hit by major tourism projects, the Moroccan coast, especially that of Saidia on the Mediterranean, is the subject of a full study. The interference between the development of a coastal river - currently the dams on the Moulouya - and the “concreting” of a large beach with a port and a holiday resort, has had strong negative effects both on coastal stability and on the rich eco-system of the hinterland, although in principle this is protected by international regulations. This kind of negative interference is equally highlighted on the beaches near the mouth of Oued Oum Rbia on the El Jadida coast. It therefore seems incontestable that coastal development will always occur in the larger areas that determine the natural functioning of the beaches, in particular, that of the nearby river watersheds. Current guidelines for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), implemented in France by the Water Agency, are fortunately heading in this direction. The study of coastlines and the possibility of developing protection against erosion, requires one to focus on the development of modern measurement techniques. The latter are the subject of two articles concerning the calculation of the sedimentary budget of the El Jadida beach in Morocco and the measurement of the extension of the Posidonian herbarium in the Hyères Bay,France.These illustrate the direction of current research in coastal geomorphology, which is moving towards an increase in the use of high-technology measurement tools and mathematical calculations. It is one of the conditions for establishing a successful relationship with the engineers and technicians from the marine services, and certainly a new and interesting way in applied geography and physics.

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Electronic reference

Jacques Daligaux, « Viewpoints », Méditerranée [Online], 115 | 2010, Online since 05 July 2011, connection on 23 March 2017. URL :

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About the author

Jacques Daligaux

Geography LecturerUniversity of ProvenceResearcherUMR TELEMME /

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