Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Other reports in this collection Potential Impacts and Coastal Zone Management

As outlined in IPCC (1998), climate-related stresses in coastal areas include loss and salinization of agricultural land resulting from changes in sea level, likely changes in the intensity of tropical cyclones, and the possibility of reduced productivity in coastal and oceanic fisheries. Table 11-9 lists estimates of potential land loss resulting from sea-level rise and the number of people exposed, assuming no adaptation (Mimura et al., 1998; Nicholls and Mimura, 1998). These estimates of potential land loss and populations exposed demonstrate the scale of the issue for the major low-lying regions of coastal Asia. The results are most dramatic in Bangladesh and Vietnam, where 15 million and 17 million people, respectively, could be exposed given a relative change in sea level of 1 m (Brammer, 1993; Haque and Zaman, 1993)—though it should be recognized that a 1-m sea-level rise is at the extreme range of presently available scenarios. Nonetheless, these examples demonstrate the sensitivity of coastal areas to climate change impacts and unsustainable utilization of resources in these areas. The impacts could be exacerbated by continued population growth in low-lying agricultural and urban areas (Nicholls et al., 1999). At the same time, adaptation strategies will alter the nature of the risk and change the socially differentiated nature of the vulnerability of populations living in hazardous regions. Response strategies that are based solely on tackling the physical parameters of risks from sea-level rise and tropical cyclones have been shown in some circumstances to enhance the vulnerability of certain parts of the population—usually those with least ability to influence decisionmaking (Blaikie et al., 1994; Hewitt, 1997; Mustafa, 1998; Adger, 1999b).

Table 11-9: Potential land loss and population exposed in Asian countries for selected magnitudes of sea-level rise and under no adaptation measures (modified from Nicholls and Mimura, 1998; Mimura et al., 1998).
  Sea-Level Rise Potential Land Loss Population Exposed
Country (cm) (km2) (%) (millions) (%)
Bangladesh 45 15,668 10.9 5.5 5.0
  100 29,846 20.7 14.8 13.5
India 100 5,763 0.4 7.1 0.8
Indonesia 60 34,000 1.9 2.0 1.1
Japan 50 1,412 0.4 2.9 2.3
Malaysia 100 7,000 2.1 >0.05 >0.3
Pakistan 20 1,700 0.2 n.a. n.a.
Vietnam 100 40,000 12.1 17.1 23.1
n.a. = not available.

Human activities, including protection facilities themselves, aggravate the vulnerability of the coastal regions to climate change and sea-level rise. There are complex interrelationships and feedbacks between human driving forces and impacts, on one hand, and climate- and sea level-induced changes and effects on the other (IPCC, 1996). At the interface between ocean and terrestrial resources, coastal ecosystems undergo stress from competing multi-usage demands, while having to retain their functional diversity and resilience in the face of global environmental change (Bower and Turner, 1998). To enhance coastal resilience and facilitate adaptation, integrated management of coastal zones must take into account the multiple resource demand and variety of stakeholders, as well as natural variability, recognizing the importance of the institutional, cultural, and historical context (Klein and Nicholls, 1999).

Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) is an iterative and evolutionary process for achieving sustainable development by developing and implementing a continuous management capability that can respond to changing conditions, including the effects of climate change (Bijlsma et al., 1996). Essentially, ICZM is a cooperative effort on the part of coastal zone stakeholders that results in a "win-win" outcome. ICZM already has been developed and implemented in some Asian countries for the allocation of environmental, sociocultural, and institutional resources to achieve conservation and sustainable multiple use of the coastal zone (Sato and Mimura, 1997). Since the 1970s, the Philippines has formulated programs and projects on coastal management, covering fishery and mangrove reforestation (Perez et al., 1999). Mangrove rehabilitation has been recommended to mitigate climate impacts in coastal zones of Vietnam (Tri et al., 1998). Since the 1960s, a groundwater withdrawal/pumping-back system has been carried out to mitigate ground subsidence in Shanghai and Tianjing. Fishing in certain seasons has been banned and the annual quality of fish catch restricted in the coastal zone of China (ESD-CAS, 1994). Sri Lanka conserves coastal tourism resources by using ICZM principles (White et al., 1997). Coastal natural conservation parks have been established in Bangladesh, Thailand, China, and other countries (Sato and Mimura, 1997; Allison, 1998). However, land ownership and management responsibility issues in Bangladesh have inhibited coastal zone management. Similarly, privatization and decentralization of storm protection systems in Vietnam have created a vacuum for strategic management and increased the potential impacts of climate variability (Adger, 1999b, 2000).

Given that many potential climate change impacts on coastal zones feature irreversible effects, surprise outcomes, and unpredictable changes, the appropriate policy response should be to maximize flexibility and enhance the resilience and adaptation potential of these areas (Pritchard et al., 1998). By contrast, coastal management in Asia to date more often than not has been dominated by policies that have sought to buffer socioeconomic activities and assets from natural hazards and risks via hard engineering protection (Chua, 1998).

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