Coastlines at Risk from Increased Development

March 12, 2008

As more and more of the world’s population moves closer to the sea, the coastal developments being constructed to accommodate the migration raise growing concerns about coastal erosion.

That’s the message in an article on the Lloyd’s web site (, which warns that “million dollar homes built on beach fronts and shorelines around the globe are facing devastation as a result of coastal erosion.”

No wonder Lloyd’s is concerned. The insurance industry, already facing larger losses from more frequent and powerful natural catastrophes, would have to pay out even more as the number and value of insured properties rises.

The increased coastal population has caused “beaches to become subject to pressures from sources such as industrial development, urban expansion, exploitation of marine resources and tourism,” said Lloyd’s. “And with more than half the world’s population living within 60 kms [36 miles] of a coastline, the environmental damage poses a serious threat.”

Lloyd’s notes that the UK’s Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) “estimates that 1.8 million residences and 140,000 commercial properties, equating to between four and five million people, could be affected by coastal erosion.”

Speaking in Dubai at the International Conference on Coastal and Port Engineering in Developing Countries, Essa Al Maidoor, Chairman of the Local Organization Committee, stated: “[Coastal erosion] also applies to the Middle East, especially the Arabian Gulf, where the coastal zone has for centuries been the primary zone for trade, commerce and human settlement. In more recent years the construction of port facilities and real estate developments has been a key element for economic growth in the region.”

The article cited the proliferation of “coastal engineering,” which has developed rapidly in the Middle East. It cited: “Residences and leisure-based projects in areas like the UAE (The Palm), Oman (The Pearl) and Bahrain” that are “being built so quickly that the earth has not had a chance to recover, as slower execution times are actually better for Mother Nature.”

Professor Kees d’Angremond, a leading consultant on coastal engineering, explained: “The environmental effects are sometimes unclear until long after contractors and consultants have moved on. Short job times mean fewer critical engineers with less time observing how the environment is being affected.”

In order to try to prevent this imminent erosion of our beaches, some preliminary precautions were put forward at the International Conference.

Dr Gary Mocke, Chairman of the Scientific Committee, noted: “The catastrophic risks of tsunamis, extreme storms and long-term sea level rise were discussed in several technical sessions, with experts providing improved methods of predicting the vulnerability of coastal areas and also emergency warning systems.

He also discussed an innovative design of a multi-functional artificial reef as an alternative to conventional rock breakwater structures which impact on the environment and provide an important habitat for marine life.

“The necessary legislation and regulatory framework for ensuring responsible management of the coast was also discussed by many experts, including a presentation on control measures in the state of California. State laws guarantee general public access to all coastal areas and severely restrict private construction activities on the foreshore,” Mocke concluded.

Source: Lloyd’s

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