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Coastal Planning

by on Jul 20th, 2010

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The Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Institute’s Coastal Planning Programme officially came about during the agency’s 1990’s project life. Today, the programme now boasts two coastal planners who are supported by the diverse array of agency technical staff, whilst being guided by the Director of the Institute. The scope of work and activities are driven by the programme’s objectives and current coastal developmental issues in Belize.

Why is Coastal Planning necessary in Belize?

Planning in Belize’s coastal zone was once considered a low priority. This was probably due to the inaccessibility, unfriendly physical conditions, low market values and resident population of most coastal areas in the past. Consequently, ad hoc and uncoordinated development management was the status quo.

Today however, over 35% of the nation’s population resides in more than 23 coastal communities. In addition, tourism has grown tremendously over the past years. For example, traditional tourist arrivals have increased by 139% between 1998 and 2001; furthermore, over 84% of tourists are accommodated in coastal communities. These trends have resulted in increased economic, recreation, development, and resource management activities throughout the coastal zone of Belize.

This scenario has demonstrated an urgent need for sound planning and management of Belize’s coastal resources. Moreover, this need is considered even more important when the potential deleterious impacts of sea level rise and catastrophic storms, which have devastated lives and economies, are added to Belize’s present scenario.

The Coastal Planning Programme

The CZMAI’s Coastal Planning Programme was established to address the ever-changing aforestated development scenario through an integrated management approach. As such, the key objectives of the programme are to:

  1. Draft planning guidelines for the coastal planning regions;
  2. Establish and develop partnerships with local cross-sectoral advisory planning committees for the planning regions;
  3. Build capacities of local planning committees through leadership, administration, and technical training;
  4. Liaise and coordinate development assessments with relevant government authorities
  5. Monitor and document coastal development; and
  6. Promote low density levels of development that are economically, socially, and ecologically acceptable,

A model demonstration of using the InVest tool. It is the Habitat Risk Assessment model.

Coastal Planning: A Continuous Process

Planning is a continuous process that involves the production of best-suited alternatives, implementation of those alternatives, monitoring and revision through education and partnerships with stakeholders and relevant authorities. Despite the increased development and natural pressures that are continuously exerted on our coastal resources, the mission of the CZMAI speaks to the planning process. This fact is demonstrated not only through the CZMAI’s overall obligation and commitment to ensure that Belize’s coastal resources are developed in a sustainable and equitable manner, but particularly through the continued implementation of an effective, transparent, and holistic Coastal Planning Programme.

This process is continued at the CZM Advisory Council and the CZMAI Board where a diverse panel of experts and policy makers collaborate to coordinate, offer expert advise and decide on issues related to the CZMAI planning process.

Planning Guidelines for Development

The CZMAI’s involvement in coastal planning began in the mid 1990’s as the Coastal Zone Management Project Coastal Planning Programme, producing planning guidelines for Turneffe Islands and Belize City Cayes. Today the Coastal Planning Programme has evolved to produce draft guidelines for the Turneffe Isles, Placencia/Laughing Bird Caye and Caye Caulker regions, while guidelines for the Dangriga/Tobacco Caye, Lighthouse Reef, Northern, and Southern regions are currently being drafted. The guidelines address development issues such as tourism and recreational activities, population expansion, fishing, utility supply, pollution and waste disposal, dredging/extraction, land clearance, and natural hazards, whose cumulative effects may lead to environmental degradation and /or economic loss if not carefully planned for. The planning guidelines will supplement the comprehensive Coastal Zone Management Plan to be completed by the Coastal Zone Management Authority, as mandated by the Coastal Zone Management Act (1998).

Community & Cross-Sectoral Planning: Coastal Advisory Committees

As integrating communities into the planning process is a high priority for the CZMAI, Coastal Advisory Committees (CAC) for eight of the nine planning regions will be established. The CAC is a multi-disciplinary body composed of members ranging from private landowners, local NGO’s and local government to representatives of the relevant permitting agencies.

The CAC’s are charged with the responsibility of reviewing and amending the guidelines, through a series of validation meetings, for conformation to local visions and objectives. Furthermore, their role may be extended to monitoring the local environment and forwarding recommendations on development projects to relevant government agencies at the end of the planning phase.

The Role and Terms of Reference for CACs (PDF)

Coastal Planning Programme Objectives

Teamwork through cross-sectoral membership
Community participatory planning has proven to provide a broad based approach, which is representative and favorable for implementation and monitoring of plans. This is because local people along with government authorities develop ownership of the process and plan while participating at various stages of the planning process. Commitment, honesty, transparency and community-centered values and representatives are vital to the success of this method. The following are a list of the planning regions:

(click on each to view the list of existing and proposed membership)

  • Northern Cayes
  • Caye Caulker
  • Belize City Cayes
  • Turneffe Isles Cayes
  • Lighthouse Reef Cayes
  • Dangriga/Glover’s Reef Cayes
  • Placencia/Laughing Bird Cayes
  • Southern Cayes

Strengthening CACs: the social science and practical way

Having a cross-sectoral advisory committee is vital to the community participatory planning approach. However, participants in this process must understand the process and appreciate the privilege and opportunity they possess. In order to facilitate this understanding and their role, the CZMAI arranged for the training of Coastal Advisory Committee (CAC) members and their alternates to participate in leadership, team, and consensus building, as well as conflict resolution training. The social scientist hired to conduct this training was Mrs. Minelva Johnson. Questions and issues that steered the workshop design included:

  • What type of leader are you?
  • What type of leaders does the CAC need?
  • Taking the leadership test
  • What are some of the basic principles of team building?
  • How can you become an active team member of the CAC?
  • Do you have the capacity to be an effective member of the CAC team?
  • What are conflicts?
  • Options for resolving conflicts
  • How can consensus be reached?

The workshop was designed to empower committee members in areas that would provide a stage for collaboration, sound membership and decision-making abilities. Committee members were also guided through their Terms of Reference and as such, were well equipped with the necessary tools and information that would empower them to provide worthwhile contributions to the development of their local planning region.

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