Understanding the Coastal Zone

Appreciating and interrogating the human-nature interactions in a contested land-sea ecological interface.

The coastal zone is a unique, dynamic and fuzzy land-sea interface. It is the tail-end ecosystem of the country. Historically, densely populated cities and towns have been located on the landward side and large numbers of people have been long engaged in traditional livelihoods such as fishing, salt making, coir processing. 

An increasing share of the GDP of our country is currently being generated on both the land and seaward components of the coastal zone. The international and national discussions on the Blue Economy include the seaward side activities of industrial fishing, prospecting for oil, gas, ocean energy and mineral resources. On the landward side there are emerging industries such as petrochemical refining; rapid development of ports; ship breaking activity; nuclear and defence establishments and a booming tourism industry. 

The result has been growing conflicts and contests between these new entrants and those who pursued traditional livelihoods on the coastal zone. The coastal zone is also highly prone to unpredictable natural disasters such as cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis and the inevitable sea-level rise due to climate change which put people and investments are far greater risk. 

In this elective, we highlight the economic, social and cultural significance of the coastal zone. It is a realm where aquatic concerns dominate, and where communities, which are among the poorest in our country, eke out a livelihood, and where new industrial and service sector forays are rapidly expanding.