Thursday, March 01, 2007

Coastal planning: The role of town planners

It is a real sign of the serious potential impact of climate change that, at the recent Academy Awards, Al Gore the Former Vice President of the United States, won an Oscar for best documentary for his film titled “An Inconvenient Truth”.

One of the long-term effects of global warming is rise in sea level which may wreak havoc onto coastal communities. The human population residing within coastal areas currently makes up 40% to 50% of the total world population. This is set to increase further. Currently, eight of the top ten largest cities in the world are located by the coast.

So what does this mean for town planners? What are the challenges in store? And how do we address them?

It is high time that town planners - or city planners, or urban planners as they are sometimes called -  kick-in their land use management role into play. Too much has been spent on costly 'curative engineering measures'. The key is to plan for coastal human settlements in a more comprehensive and holistic manner in the  face of climate change. The integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) approach is the way forward.

This gives emphasis to control over land use and development, incorporating the systematic management of activities and various coastal systems and natural resources.

In Malaysia, land use planners are blessed with various tools - as enshrined in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1976 (Act 172) - which would allow them to stake their claim in contributing towards the sustainable development of coastal areas. The requirement for submission of Development Proposal Report during planning approval, and the preparation of development plans - i.e. State Structure Plans and Local Plans - are two basic means to start with.

With the rampant loss of natural coastal areas through inconsiderate development and land reclamation, planners have got to act fast. But first, there is a dire need for us to broaden our views beyond the utilization of traditional physical land use planning tools and mechanisms. For coastal management is a complex task in itself. Throw in human settlement management and you would have a onerous challenge. It is for this reason that I would also urge the authorities to start scrutinizing the Act 172 for what else it can offer in the area of coastal planning and management.

If a Former Vice President of the United States can stake his claim as an environmentalist, surely can town planners.

Forget the Oscar though.


khairiah said...

Yes, I agree ...planners do have a role, but in the REAL world, planners who are environmentalists, or even those who care so much for teh enviornment are stigmatized as anti-development, and when the planner is a consultant, he/she will never get another job from any developer!! Yes, I may sound that I am giving my principles and beliefs away, but then the proposed development is backed by the state government or minister...and even that the coastal reclamation is imbued in the state master plan??? What then?? Added to that there are support from EIA consultants that support an area's suggested coastal reclamation!!! I have been given such a site. Its for a foreign investment ("so badly needed by the state"), its backed by the MB, and teh EIA consultant says it can be done!! If I say no, what ammo do I have??? I will be branded as anti development!! Its a catch 22 thing, really!

There is already the JPBD's guidelines on coastal development. But many states and LA's do not abide by it!! So, how?? Planners are up against so much!

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