|Introduction to ICZM | The Coastal Zone | What is Coastal Zone Management | The International Context |

The coastal zones of the tropics are some of the most dynamic environments on earth. In Malaysia the majority of the population lives in coastal areas. In Sarawak more than 80% of the population live along the 800 km coastline, the size and shape of which is constantly changing.

Coastal zones are unique. Such things as daily tides, mangrove forest, storm waves and tidal flats are found only on the coast. The strip of land that straddles the coastline contains some of the most productive and valuable habitats of the world. Coastal zones are also very sensitive ecological systems with great value in an economic, recreational, aesthetic, social, environmental conservation sence.

This resource is governed by a number of different agencies and organisations who all have a vested interest in the resources available in the coastal zone. However, the management of the coastal zone is characterised by:

  • great complexity and variety due to the combination and interaction of land and sea;
  • the variety and importance of the resources that the zone contains;
  • the importance of coastal ecosystems in themselves, and in their interaction with other terrestrial and marine ecosystems;
  • the variety and extent of social and economic demands on the zone, and the increase in these demands;
  • insufficient coordination and communication between legislative and administrative structures sharing the responsibility of the coastal zone.

Man's activities affect the coastal ecosystem. Agriculture, industry and coastal settlements pollute the coast. Sand mining activities and mangrove conservations disrupt the coastal dynamics and contribute to erosion. Coastal zones require special attention from planners, environmental managers and decision-makers. Hence, ICZM has evolved in many coastal states world-wide. The principle of ICZM is to manage and conserve the natural resources of the coast, as well as to seek to integrate the social and economic concerns of the various stakeholders in the coastal areas.

Sustainable management of our physical environment is tin the best interest of the immediate coastal community, the wider community, and the world environment as a whole.

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There are many definitions of coastal zone depending on the interests of the questioned agency or organisation. Basically, there are two parameters according to which you may define coastal zones; one is by consideration of environmental parameters, i.e. based on the ecological classifications found there; and another is by considering the social and economic aspects of the area.

At an ICZM Project meeting in Kuching on the 27th of April 1998, the State Steering Committee agreed that the criteria for the Coastal Zone should be:

  • Influence of tidal waters for the inland boundary: and
  • The Exclusive Economic Zone for foreshore areas.

The coastline of Sarawak includes open mangrove, estuarine mangrove, open littoral, sheltered littoral, cresentric bays, pocket beaches, fringing coral, rock protected developed areas and unprotected developed areas. The coastline is subject to constant change as a result of the forces of erosion and accretion.

Importance of the zone

Coastlines are very dynamic, diverse and complicated environments. At the same time they are environments under increasing pressure to sustain themselves in the midst of growing population demands for natural resources and economic development.

The coastal ecosystem is dynamic and changes when exposed to alterations in the social and economic activities performed there.

The coastal zone of Sarawak is the home of more than 82% of the inhabitants who directly and indirectly depend on the environment for resources.

Principal Uses of the Coastal Zone:

Human Settlement
Industrial Estates
Timber Processing

Principal Coastal Elements of the Coastal Zone of Sarawak:

winds and Monsoon Influences
Wave Action
Sediment Transport
Littoral Drift

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Presently, coastal zone management in Malaysia is characterised by fragmentation in the overall efforts to conserve and protect its resources. The ICZM approach is based on the recognition that due to the complexity of the coastal zone, i.e. the biological social and economic diversity, sustainable management of its resources requires a concerted effort of all the players in the area. Integrated management is the key notion of ICZM.


Integrated Coastal Zone Management is a system to manage the resources of the coastal zone through the collaborative participation of all affected economic sectors, government agencies and non-governmental organisations. It is based on the physical, socio-economic and political connections that make up the coastal zone.

ICZM can be seen as a continuous and dynamic process. It unites all stakeholders in developing and implementing an integrated plan with a co-ordinated strategy for allocation of environmental, socio-cultural and institutional resources. The aim is to achieve conservation and sustainable multiple use of the coastal zone.

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The interest in ICZM has increased worldwide over the last decade. As demand on the world's natural resources increase our national environment tends to deteriorate as a result. In 1972 the United States issued the Coastal Zone Management Act making it the first nation to draft a federal framework for coastal zone management. The Act provides member states with guidelines for a national goal. Since then the ICZM concept has been adopted by major international environmental agencies such as the United Nation. A conference on environment and development (Rio de Janeiro in 1992) has led to policy statements and guidelines signed by a long list of countries worldwide

Malaysia is a signatory of the Rio de Janeiro policy statement and as such has vowed to uphold certain principles of environmental management.

Policy Principles of the Rio de Janeiro Conference include:

  • Supporting fairness and justice in matters of environment and development;
  • ensuring that lack of scientific evidence is a reason for postponing development actions that might otherwise harm the surrounding environment;
  • developers pay for any preventative and clean up measures in connection with economic activities.

ASEAN Countries

The coastal environments of most ASEAN member states are subject to increasing pressures due to human and commercial development. Consequently, more and more nations acknowledge the need for Coastal Zone Management as the means to sustain and conserve the coastal environment for the future. Some ASEAN countries, e.g. Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines have already incorporated the principles of ICZM into their environmental strategies, and others such as Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia are at difference stages of implementation.


In Malaysia, ICZM projects have been undertaken in Sarawak, Penang and Sabah.

At the national level a Coastal Zone Management Policy is currently being drafted. The ICZM Policy will be accompanied by a number of regulating mechanisms to ensure policy enforcement and implementation.

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