Contribution of Coastal and Marine Sectors to Sustainable Development

in Eastern Africa


Eric O. Odada


Department of Geology, University of Nairobi

P. O. Box 30197, Nairobi, KENYA



The Eastern African coastal and marine areas have some of the world's richest ecosystems containing extensive coral reefs, lagoons, estuaries and mangrove forests. The seashores of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique are extremely rich in marine habitats and sheer numbers of marine plants and animal species. Within this tropical belt, are found some of the world's most extensive mangrove forests, vast stretches of seagrass beds, and several hundred of kilometres of sand beaches, limestone cliffs, lagoons and, subtidally some of the richest coral reefs. These ecosystems support a wide diversity of plants and animals and economic benefits derived from the coastal and marine environments are essential for a large part of the population in the countries of the region. These coastal and marine environments provide coastal population and community inland with essential requirements in life such as food, building materials, firewood and many other vital resources.

Throughout the Eastern Africa, the countries are facing a growing number of coastal and marine changes as a result of development and increased population pressure. The Eastern African marine environment is influenced by unregulated human activities on land and the changes can be viewed as taking place in a series of concentric circles - in the centre, desertification; towards the coasts, deforestation; on the coasts, erosion and population of the beaches; on the high seas, over-exploitation of marine resources, dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes and oil spillage. As the population increases, the Eastern African coastal and marine environments are assuming greater importance - hence the growing realisation that they need to be protected from pollution, coastal erosion, over-exploitation of marine resources, etc. through an integrated interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach in developing management plans, for the coastal and marine areas of the region.

In general, in the Eastern African region, environmental values and natural resources factors have not always been integrated into national development plans. Development decisions and social trends appear not to have minimised environmental degradation nor to have optimised the value of natural resources. Industrial expansion has often been carried out at the expense of the environment. Economic and social development, both in cities and countryside, has tended to deplete natural resources and damage the environment and amenities. Institutions to promote the environmental and resource values and to ensure that they are taken into account in the governmental decision making are just being created in some countries in the region.

There are a number of reasons for this serious situation. In general there is lack of knowledge and understanding of the coastal and marine resources and their interaction with terrestrial and oceanic processes. This lack of information and awareness, together with ineffective coastal and marine planning and management further aggravated the situation. In this paper, the present status and trends of coastal and ocean development in the Eastern African region are examined. The existing capabilities in the region to implement sustainable development strategies are also assessed. The paper is intended to serve the dual-purpose of providing background information for the coral reef workshop, and to stimulate discussion on the need for integrated management of coastal and marine areas in the Eastern African region.