With the increased challenges of environmental conservation along the coastal regions and catchment areas, an integrated approach will play an imperative role. The approach has been applied in Australia, with an aim of fostering a sustainable growth and development. The Victoria Coastal zone indicates how the community, government and the costal management committees can work together towards a sustainable environmental management (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011).
The coastal regions foster economic, cultural and social development, explaining the main reason why efforts should be taken to protect them. In the Victoria Zone, about $9.8 billion in revenue is added to the economy. This comes from various economic activities such as tourism, commercial fishing and oil production. The coastal regions have also created direct and indirect employment opportunities to about 23,000 locals (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011).
Further, several investors have decided to invest in the Victorian Coastal Zone owing to its economic viability. While the catchment and coastal areas have various benefits to the community, the preservation of these regions has always been a major problem. One of the main strategies employed by the Coastal Management Committees (CMCs) is the use of the integrated approach. This is where the major stakeholders are required to take decisive and informed actions towards the preservation of the catchment and coastal regions.
In the Victoria Coastal Zone, the main parties in play are the government, the coastal management committees and the community members (Balint, et al., 2011). The integration processes has been conceptualized as one of the main strategies that can ensure a sustainable growth and protection of the catchment and coastal regions. While the integration approach has been said to be an objective strategy, it has failed due to a number of factors, which include lack of capacity on the part of the community, self-interests, lack of common vision and objectives, and financial constraints.
The paper will focus on the factors that inhibit the integration in catchment and coastal management. The paper will demonstrate that while the government and other policy makers have invested a lot of funds towards integration, there are still major problems facing the catchment areas and the coastal regions. The population increase coupled with the encroachment of these environmental regions has been a major challenge. Over-exploitation of the natural resources and lack of proactive measures in ensuring a sustainable development as one interacts with nature will cause major problems.
The communication gap existing among the stakeholders has watered down the benefits of integration. This owes to
the fact that every stakeholder has different expectations, and goals that they are pursuing, while still claiming to protect the environment. The lack of knowledge and understanding of the major environmental factors such as cyclones, tsunamis, and other related issues, makes some stakeholders less competent. The paper will also provide the recommendations on what needs to be done in ensuring that the integration efforts yield the expected results.
One of the main factors is effective communication. All the stakeholders ought to be treated as equal partners; hence no one should act without any consultation. One of the main aims by the government should be to ensure that the local communities benefit directly from the economic activities taking place within the catchment and the coastal regions. This has been demonstrated in the Victoria Coastal Zone where thousands of locals have benefited from employment opportunities. Further, there is a need to ensure that mobilization and sensitization programs are held regularly with an aim of reminding the community members of their responsibilities in taking care of the environment.
Factors inhibiting integration of the catchment and coastal management
Conflict of interest
This remains one of the greatest challenges to the management of the coastal regions. As indicated before, the coastal regions have offered investment opportunities, and have also contributed to the economic development. The Victoria Coastal zone, for instance, has provided fishing, oil production and tourism opportunities that have also employed thousands of the local communities (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011). For this reason, the government, and the local communities have a direct interest into what is taking place at the coastal and catchment areas.
In most cases, the self-interests seem to supersede the need to take proactive measures towards the protection of the environment. Any actions that seem to interfere with the current status quo may be resisted by the interested parties. For instance, the community members would want to know how they will benefit from any activities that take place within their zones. Currently, the population growth and the increased economic activities along the coastal regions are exerting more pressure on the existing natural resources. With the increased number of tourists annually, the rate of consumption increases.
While the government and the local communities will benefit from economic, cultural and social development, there is a challenge on the whole issue of promoting a sustainable development. Unless these interests are addressed in an objective way, the current integration will not yield any major benefits.
The success of the integration approach towards the coastal management depends on the quality of leadership (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007). This is especially at the community level where the leader is expected to sensitize the community members on the need to engage in activities that will contribute to the conversation of the environment.
One of the main problems that have been established is some stakeholders lack leaders with the relevant knowledge and experience in matters of environmental management. At the community level, this problem is common. For this reason, the community members may not be able to achieve their set objectives of ensuring that they participate fully in conservation programs without supervision from the coastal management committees.
The local communities, for instance, should be able to understand the environmental disasters that are frequently experienced in their regions (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007). These include catastrophes such as Tsunamis, cyclones and other negative implications of global warming. Further, through their leadership, the local communities need to have the knowledge and competence that will enable them to detect and solve any environmental issues. Another major challenge of leadership is failing to communicate effectively to their subjects, which later leads to conflicts and lack of trust.
Financial and other capacity challenges
Low financial capacity, influence of other groups, and the perception that certain stakeholders are not the ‘authorities’ hamper the integration (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007). As indicated before, the integration approach can work when all members feel appreciated, and have access to all the necessary resources.
One of the main negative effects, especially at the local communities is that the government relies more on volunteers. While this shows responsibility on the part of the community, these people can opt out of the program at any time. Lack of financial capacity hampers certain activities that would lead to environmental conservation.
While the government has been given the authority to protect the catchment and coastal areas of the Coastal Management Act of 1995, the local communities and other stakeholders are not recognized. According to the Act, the government, through relevant constitutionally established agents, has the prerogative to prepare a coastal management plan, and execute any strategies that it deems right to address the current situation. This means that the decision taken by the local communities are superseded by those made by the state. This means that while the government may collaborate with other stakeholders, it has the power of influence, and may use this to advance its own agenda. It is this kind of scenario that at times makes other stakeholders feel inadequate, powerless and disenchanted.
Recommendations to promote integration
Promote transformational leadership
As mentioned before, leadership plays a vital role in ensuring that the subjects are empowered to act. The transformational leadership is based on establishing strong bonds with the subjects. It is a relation oriented kind of leadership, whose main aim is to provide an environment where the subjects can learn and improve their skills. Transformational leadership will ensure that the community members have all the necessary knowledge in dealing with the issues of environmental conservation. To facilitate this, community leaders should assess the knowledge and experience gap in order to provide the necessary resources. The leader should also focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the members, in order to know where the improvement is needed.
Ensuring effective communication within the group is also vital. A transformation leader should be more of a listener. He/she should give the subjects an opportunity to make any recommendations and suggestions, rather than being the only sole decision maker. Further, the leadership should ensure that the participants are given an opportunity to participate in the decision making process. The leadership at the government level should also improve. There is a need to involve all the stakeholders in all the decision making, rather than reporting to them what needs to be done. Further, the leadership should seek to promote transparency and accountability in order to foster a sense of trust among the rest of the stakeholders.
Financial and technical support
While it is imperative that the members of the community offer volunteer to conserve their surrounding environment, financial support is needed. This is especially to the management committees at the local level who are key decision makers. They sacrifice most of their time, and may need remunerations to motivate them. Further, the finances will go into ensuring that other stakeholders are trained on matters of environmental conservation. This will add the level of knowledge, which will be translated into success of the catchment and coastal management. Further, the government should come up with strategies that will ensure that the conservation groups at the community level are recognized, and their decisions approved so long as they are consistent with the vision of the coastal management.
As indicated before, the decisions made by other stakeholders may not be taken seriously, since they lack the legal authority. The government should ensure that it works closely with such stakeholders to prevent such embarrassing situations, which in most cases discourage cooperation.
Ensure equitable distribution of resources
One of the main reasons why the community members feel motivated to participate in environmental conservation is having a share of the resources. While the government has ensured that the local communities benefit from the employment opportunities created by investors near the coastal regions, there are still a lot that need to be done. Part of the proceeds of the current mining activities, tourism and fishing should be used in the conservation of the environment, training the local communities on matters of environmental conservation, and upgrading the current infrastructure such as roads, health and learning institutions. Through this, the community members will feel the need to conserve the environment, owing to the fact that it will be perceived as a source of their livelihood.
Mobilization and Sensitization program
The government through agencies such as the coastal management committees should allocate more finances towards sensitization programs. The community members should understand why they need to conserve the environment, and why each of them is should take the responsibility. Through these programs, the government, through the coastal management experts that equip the relevant stakeholders with the right skills that will ensure that they become competent. The main actors (such as the government) should be able to lead by example on conservation matters. This includes the need to pass stringent laws that seek to punish those who are bent on polluting the environment. This may include the regulation of the economic activities along the coastal regions, such as the offshore mining, and extraction of oil.
Constant communication and monitoring
The relationship between the stakeholders is maintained by constant communication. Proper channels should be established to ensure that the information is able to flow freely from top to bottom and vice versa. The government should seek to remove any bureaucracies that may interfere with effective communication. Further, there is need to ensure that constant monitoring of the established programs is done. This will ensure that any errors can be corrected, before it can cause any damage. The monitoring and evaluation will also enable the relevant authority to employ other strategies, should the current ones prove to be unprofitable. It is also a way through which the stakeholders can measure their performance, and know whether they are able to achieve the set goals and objectives.
In conclusion, the catchment and coastal management has gained momentum owing to the dangers posed to the flora and fauna. The coastal regions provide livelihood to the community members. Such regions are endowed with natural resources such as oil and minerals. The coastal regions also offer a serene environment where people can have fun and also relax. In Victoria Coastal Zones, economic activities such as fishing, extraction of oil and tourism continues to take place. This has created employment opportunities to thousands of the local communities. This should how importance the coastal regions are to the communities and the whole nation, hence the need to protect them. While there are a number of strategies that are used to achieve this objective, the integration of all the relevant stakeholders is necessary.
The management of the catchment and coastal regions should not be a responsibility of only one party, but a number of them. However, integration has been hampered by lack of finances and technical capacities on the part of some stakeholders, poor leadership, vested interests and inequitable distribution of resources. However, addressing these challenges will assist in alleviating the current challenge. This will see the success of integration towards the management of the catchment and coastal regions.
- Australian Public Service Commission 2007, Tackling Wicked Problems: A Public Policy Perspective, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
- Balint, PJ, Stewart, RE, Desai, A and Walters, LC 2011, Wicked Environmental Problems: Managing Uncertainty and Conflict, Island Press, Washington DC.
- Commonwealth of Australia 2011, Australian Government Response to the report of the independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.