Wednesday, 1 February, 2023

Climate change and ICZM in Cox’s Bazar

Climate change and ICZM in Cox’s Bazar

Climate change is undeniably one of the most pressing concerns of the world community in the contemporary international order. As a non-traditional security threat, climate change does not remain confined to territorial limits and poses challenges disproportionately throughout the population of the world. Global temperature rise, rising sea levels, and extreme weather variability are already affecting people’s lives and livelihoods on a daily basis. Specifically in coastal zones, consequences are substantially detrimental on both the social and economic fronts; the submergence and flooding of coastal land, the intrusion of saltwater into surface waters and groundwater, increased erosion and water pollution are the concerns that need to be addressed in many regions, and these challenges endanger both man-made infrastructure and coastal ecosystems. Among these coastal zones, Cox’s Bazar is one of the most climate-vulnerable areas and is subject to extreme rainfall, landslides, and flash floods. It is also the largest camp of displaced people in the world.  Addition of more than 1.1 million Rohingyas, who fled persecution in their home country of Myanmar, have put tremendous pressure on the region’s already fragile ecosystem. In order to address these existing challenges posed by climate change and achieve sustainable development of coastal zone of Bangladesh, specifically in Cox’s Bazar, it is essential to have an integrated management system in place.

Understanding the concept of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM):

The ICZM is a widely accepted approach at all levels of governance as a means of delivering sustainable development in the coastal areas. It is a dynamic, multidisciplinary and iterative process to promote sustainable management of coastal zones, while covering the full cycle of information collection, planning (in its broadest sense), decision making, management and monitoring of implementation.

The purpose of ICZM is to maximise the benefits provided by the coastal zone and to minimise the conflicts and harmful effects of activities upon each other, on resources and on the environment. ICZM takes into account all of the sectorial activities that affect the coastal zone and its resources and deals with economic and social issues as well as environmental/ecological concerns. It focuses on three operational objectives: Strengthening sectorial management, for instance through training, legislation, and staffing; Preserving and protecting the productivity and biological diversity of coastal ecosystems, mainly through prevention of habitat destruction, pollution, and overexploitation; Promoting rational development and sustainable utilisation of coastal resources. ICZM maintains a balance between protection of valuable ecosystems and development of coast-dependent economies.

Opportunities and Challenges for Bangladesh on the Implementations of ICZM:

Coastal zone management, development and planning have received serious attention by the Government of Bangladesh in the past decades and implemented a number of measures to support planning and management in coastal areas. For instance, in various fields, including shipping, fisheries, environment, research and tourism sectors, development efforts have recently been taken or are currently being planned to boost economic growth and manage available resources more sustainably at the same time. An oceanographic research institute was recently established in Bangladesh for all types of coastal and oceanic study. In order to preserve vital habitats and biodiversity, a number of Ecologically Critical Areas (ECA) have been implemented in diverse coastal ecosystems.

The selection of a series of distinct coastal projects served as the initial step in the transition from planning to implementation towards ICZM. However, we need to put more emphasis on how we can harness the available resources more efficiently. The instances of opportunities within the coastal zone of Cox’s Bazar comprise a long and large coastal area enriched with resources and dynamic biodiversity of coastal ecosystems. In order to utilise these opportunities, a comprehensive and thorough framework is needed to implement the strategies of ICZM.  Although, there are obstacles to the implementation of ICZM, these obstacles can be overcome with robust engagement from both public-private stakeholder communities.

ICZM in Cox’s Bazar to minimise the effect of climate change:

With rising population, presence of more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, diminishing natural resources, and the ongoing and intensifying effects of climate change, sectorial planning no longer safeguards the coast as it once did. ICZM in Bangladesh is not just for environmental or ecological advantage; rather, it offers a plan for survival to millions of people who are at the whim of nature. The strategy of integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) not only helps to mitigate the consequences of disasters, but it also gives opportunity for the sustainable usage of resources. Existing experiences on coastal management in general, and the ICZM framework in particular, provide an opportunity to investigate the numerous elements that increase the vulnerability of coastal habitats and communities to climatic risk and the ways of resolving these sources of vulnerability in Cox’s Bazar.

The Cox’s Bazar Development Authority can play a vital role in ensuring and harmonizing the objectives of ICZM. The organisation has been sustaining their role as an agent for development and regulatory body to oversee development. In addition to carrying out those objectives in an extensive setting, this organisation can also establish a comprehensive framework that may incorporate information collection, planning, decision making, management, and monitoring. This framework has the potential to further facilitate the path towards integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) by providing additional assistance in working from the grassroots levels which in turn can contribute to sustainable development of the region. Thus, in order to move forward to a sustainably developed Cox’s Bazar, the transition to a comprehensive framework for ICZM implementation needs to begin as soon as possible.


Rifa Tasfia Zeba, a master’s student of Dhaka University and research assistant at CFISS