Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Project Summary
Sustainable living in small historic coastal cities, Essaouira, Morocco; Kotor, Yugoslavia; Mahdia, Tunisia; Omisalj, Croatia; Saida, Lebanon

Revision date: 27th May 2002
Title:  Sustainable living in small historic coastal cities, Essaouira, Morocco; Kotor, Yugoslavia; Mahdia, Tunisia; Omisalj, Croatia; Saïda, Lebanon. (Former title: Urban development and freshwater resources in small historic coastal cities [Mediterranean])
Goals: To promote an integrated approach to sustainable urban development in selected small historic coastal cities in the Mediterranean region (North Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe), which will protect the socio-cultural identity of the populations, and enhance the natural, cultural, historical and archaeological heritage of these cities; to address particular issues related to the upgrading of housing, public involvement, reinforcement of municipal capacity building, while taking into account the availability of freshwater resources and the enhancement of natural coastal environments facing uncontrolled urban and tourism  development.
Description: The project has sought to stimulate partnerships between small historic coastal cities in the region, in order to share complementary experiences and technical expertise, as well as to promote networking among municipalities and other local, regional and national authorities.  The project has focused on five cities, which represent case studies, and give municipal authorities the chance to work with other levels of government to tackle local urban development problems in an integrated manner.  A series of international, interdisciplinary seminars have been held (in 1997, 1999, 2001) which enhanced networking and provided the background for action plans in each of the five cities.
  1. Increased awareness about the development of the cities, at all levels of society.
  2. Municipal capacity building.

  3. Replicable and sustainable activities relating to improving the living conditions of the poor.

  4. Creation of technical partnerships between cities.

  5. Distribution of information through technical reports and websites.

  6. An agreement for bilateral co-operation between the French Government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was signed in March 2002 to provide integrated financial support from several French ministries (Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Cities Inter-ministerial Delegation) to the Small Historic Coastal Cities (SHCC) network activities.
Future directions:
  1. Conduct a full evaluation of the project.
  2. Emphasise integrated approaches to urban development.
  3. Carefully scrutinise requests from other coastal cities to become case studies, potential ‘Tutor cities’ will be welcomed.
  4. Create an intersectoral guiding group of experts.
  5. Establish an independent federation or alliance of cities, which would eventually replace the role of UNESCO.

Essaouira, Morocco
Starting date: 1997
Partners: Essaouira Municipality; Local Agenda 21; Ministries of Internal Affairs, Environment and Culture; Environment and Development of the Third World-Maghreb; Association pour le développement des échanges entre la France et le Maroc; Belgian Cooperation; United Nations Centre for Human Settlements; United Nations Development Programme; UNESCO: Rabat Office, World Heritage Centre, sector for Social and Human Sciences, sector for Natural SciencesDivision of Water Sciences and the Coastal Regions and Small Islands platform.
Project leader:

Mr Abdelaziz El Mouatez, Ancien Palais de Justice, Place Hassan II, Essaouira, Morocco. Tel: 212 4 476717, Fax: 212 4 476785e-mail ag21ess@marocnet.net.ma

Description: Urban districts, including the old Medina, are under threat from human and natural processes. These include overpopulation, strong socio-economic transformations, inadequate and poorly maintained infrastructure, freshwater over-exploitation, saltwater intrusion, soil subsidence, coastal erosion, and dune destabilisation. 

Project activities are undertaken by a Local Agenda 21 platform, which together with other partners, focus on interdisciplinary activities.  These include strengthening the urban development and planning processes, increasing public participation in city management, designating priority areas for action, providing training in specific domains, and building awareness.

The main activities are as follows:

  1. The first UNESCO international seminar on the SHCC network was held in Essaouira in 1997.
  2. Feasibility studies for the restoration of the seawall in front of the Medina, and the construction of an offshore breakwater to protect the old city.
  3. Socio-economic studies on tourism development and socio-cultural transformations.
  4. Temporary relocation of those families occupying houses contiguous to the wall and in unhealthy housing in the Mellah; creation of a Growing Up in Cities site in the northern neighbourhoods.
  5. Rehabilitation of the historical urban area, and the building of sanitary infrastructure in the Medina for the most needy families.
  6. Adaptation of historical monuments in the city into socio-cultural sites or social housing.
  1. Restoration work has been carried out in the Western Bastion and 12 apprentices were trained. Other restoration work cannot commence until funds are identified to relocate the families living in decaying housing or monuments.

  2. In order to rehabilitate unhealthy housing in the Mellah, several families were relocated.
  3. There have been several coastal erosion investigations, and an engineering feasibility study into repairing the base of the historical seawall and the possible placement of rocks in the bay north of the Mellah, is underway.
  4. A study was undertaken in 1998 on the management of freshwater resources and saltwater issues in Essaouira.
  5. An awareness campaign entitled ‘Clean City’ has been ongoing since 1999.
  6. The project underwent a full evaluation in April 2001 by the principal donor, the Belgian Cooperation.
Future directions:
  1. Identify new priorities for the restoration of historical buildings, and fully utilise the skilled stonemasons trained within this project in the restoration of Essaouira’s ramparts.

  2. Relocate the population in need in the Medina.

  3. Develop an information brochure, a dedicated website, and a video, to promote awareness about the project.

  4. Develop local capacity in ecotourism and project leadership.

  5. Involve the French cities of la Rochelle and Villefranche-sur-mer in the redevelopment of the Essaouira historic seafront.
  6. Establish a demonstration house (a training and awareness centre on traditional house-building techniques).
Municipality of Kotor, Montenegro, Yugoslavia
Starting date: 1997, interrupted 1998-2000, resumed 2001
Partners: Municipality of Kotor; UNESCO: Venice Office, sector for Natural Sciences, Coastal Regions and Small Islands platform.
Project leader: Mrs. Svjetlana Lalic, City of Kotor, Project Coordinator, J.P. ‘Crnogorsko primorje’ Trg sunca, br.4 85310 BUDVAB, Yugoslavia – Montenegro.
Tel/fax: 381 86 51 460, 381 86 51 937
e-mail: crprimor@eunet.yu
Description: This project is focusing on an integrated approach to the sustainable development of the city and the Bay of Kotor, particularly addressing tourism development, freshwater resources, and protection of the cultural and natural heritage.  Due to political tensions in the former Yugoslavia, the project was suspended between 1998 and 2000.  During a one-week meeting in December 2000, local and international experts emphasised the paramount importance of freshwater and solid waste management issues, and local authorities reaffirmed their interest in the project.
Due to the political tensions, there have not yet been any significant achievements.
Future directions:
  1. Redesign the project with a focus on sustainable tourism.

  2. Collect reliable environmental baseline data, e.g. freshwater, population, and solid waste parameters, and analyse the planning and decision-making framework.

  3. Obtain the assistance of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) particularly in information dissemination and education.

  4. Improve coordination among the six municipalities in the Bay of Kotor in order to establish a common development strategy.

Mahdia, Tunisia
Starting date: 1997
Partners: Mahdia Government; Municipality of Mahdia; Ministry of Environment Tunisia, Coastal Management Agency; School of Architecture of Nantes and Tunis; National Commission for UNESCO; French Ministry of Culture; Council of Loire Atlantique; City of Montpellier; Research Centre on Fixation of Dunes (France); Architecture & développement (an NGO); UNESCO: sector for Social and Human Sciences, Coastal Regions and Small Islands platform.
Project leader: Mr. Ridha Boussouffara, Musée régional de Mahdia, Place 7 Novembre, 5100 Mahdia, Tunisia. 
Tel/fax: 216 3 692752  
e-mail: ridha57@yahoo.fr  

A master plan to preserve the social, architectural and cultural role of the Medina is at the core of this project, along with developing the tourism industry and redeveloping the old city. 

The main activities are as follows:

  1. The second UNESCO International Seminar on the SHCC network was held in Mahdia in 1999.

  2. Protection of the fore dune and the development of the coast north of Mahdia and Cap Afrique; reduction of impacts associated with the abandonment and re-use of quarries within the city of Mahdia.

  3. A demonstration house was established to promote the adaptive use of traditional housing with regard to the new socio-cultural needs of the population, in particular fishermen.

  4. Planning the re-use of urban areas in the Medina in the framework of the Mahdia Master Plan.
  5. Promotion of tourism as an intersectoral activity in the socio-economic development of the city.

  6. Provision of skills training for municipal and regional leaders.  

Recommendations included in the ‘Mahdia Declaration’, launched at the international seminar in 1999, are being implemented, these include:

  1. Dunes have been rehabilitated over a 600 m length of shoreline, and an awareness campaign mounted, including an information day and a brochure.

  2. A demonstration house was launched in August 2000, and an agreement was signed between the local stakeholders and the French partners, to undertake a three-year programme, which aims to:
  • restore  house and a workshop to reflect the inhabitants’ needs;

  • re-establish old techniques and materials adapted to the local environment and introduce new techniques;

  • build associations between local craftsmen and the inhabitants of the Medina, as well as between Tunisian and French students through joint research work and give visibility to activities undertaken;

  • participate in the implementation of a Master Plan for the Medina.

  1. Provide technical advice and critique regarding proposed new developments.
Future directions:
  1. Build on the experience of the demonstration house and continue student and expert exchanges with French institutes.
  2. Sensitise the mayors of other cities concerning the participation of the inhabitants in the balanced development of cities.
  3. Maintain the support from the Loire Atlantique County Council in collaboration with the Nantes School of Architecture to the Tunis School of Architecture and the Mahdia Government to establish a self-running demonstration house.
  4. Transfer of the demonstration house experience to the city of Saïda.  
Municipality of Omisalj, Krk Island, Croatia
Starting date: 1997
Partners: Local Agenda 21 Omisalj; Municipality of Omisalj; Rijeka County; Ministry of the Environment; Faculty of Architecture, Zagreb, Croatia; Faculty of Tourism Economy, Rijeka, Croatia; Venice University Institute of Architecture, Italy; University Faculty of Agronomical Sciences, Gembloux, Belgium; Croatian National Commission for UNESCO; UNESCO: Venice and Zagreb Offices, sector for Natural Sciences, Coastal Regions and Small Islands platform.
Project leaders: Mrs. Beta Antolic, Lord Mayor of Omisalj , Prikeste 11 51513 Omisalj, Hrvatska, Croatia.
Prof. Giovanni Campeol, Department of Land Planning, Institute of Architecture, University of Venice, S.Croce, 1957 - 30135, Venice, Italy.
Tel: 0039 041 2572167, Fax: 0039 041 5240403
e-mail : giocamp@iuav.it
Description: This project is attempting to analyse environmental conditions in the Omisalj area using an assessment model to apply the principles of sustainable development to land planning. A Master Plan for the sustainable development of Omisalj has been prepared. The project has highlighted conflicts between local and central authorities, and between local and regional interests. Public participation in a young democracy such as Croatia is a difficult process to trigger, particularly with land-use planning issues.  

The major activities in Omisalj are as follows:

  1. Extension of archaeological excavations at the Fulfinum site.

  2. Preliminary study of a proposed marina in the Bay of Voz, Lanterna Peninsula.
  3. The implementation of a project to protect the historical centre.
  4. Updating of the Master Plan according to the Countys territorial plan. 

Experiences gained in Omisalj are being transferred to other locations in Croatia with the support of the Rijeka County Government.

  1. The assessment model has shown the high value of natural resources, some of which are unique; the need for local community government; and the fact that indicators such as local per capita income are more useful if they take into account preservation of the local identity.
  2. Collaboration between students and teachers at local and foreign universities has helped to trigger awareness building among the local population, although there is still a long way to go.

  3. Publication of a book in 2001 in English and Croatian, entitled ‘Regional Planning and Pilot Projects for Sustainable Development in Croatia’ by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science in Europe (Venice, Italy) and the Rijeka Primorsko-goranska Zupanija (Rijeka County Government), Croatia.
Future directions:
  1. Refine the environmental assessment model particularly the indicators and the analysis of the local cultural and anthropological characteristics.

  2. Apply the model to other small coastal cities.

  3. Set up in Rijeka a ‘High School of Environmental Management’ for Croatian decision-makers.

  4. Encourage collaboration with foreign universities to carry out archaeological excavations in Omisalj.

  5. Collaborate with the Institute of Architecture, University of Venice, to survey the historical centre of Omisalj.

  6. Support postgraduate research training in the economics of environmental tourism.
Saïda, Lebanon
Starting date: 1997
Partners:  Municipality of Saïda; Saïda Heritage and Environment Association; Hariri Foundation; Direction generale de l’Urbanisme, Lebanon; Direction generale des antiquités, Lebanese; Universities of Beirut and of Saïda; Forum of non-governmental organizations of the city of Saïda; City and University of la Rochelle, region ‘Charentes Maritimes’ and French Ministry of Public Works; city of Valencia, Spain; World Bank; United Nations Development Programme; United Nations Children’s Fund; UNESCO: Beirut Office, sectors for Social and Human Sciences, Culture, and Natural Sciences, Coastal Regions and Small Islands platform.
Project leader: Mr. Hilal Kobrosli, Lord Mayor of Saïda, Immeuble Baladié, Place Nejme, Saïda, Lebanon.
Tel: 961 7 720 060, 961 7 722 869, Fax: 961 7 720 603
Description: This project is in an early stage and is focusing on an integrated approach to urban development.  The major activities are as follows:
  1. There have been several assessment missions and the creation of a Growing Up in Cities site in the old Medina by the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Project. 
  2. A preliminary information workshop was held for mayors of all historical cities of Lebanon in December 2000, co-organised by the Municipality, UNESCO-Beirut Office and the Hariri Foundation.
  3. Saïda has applied to be registered on the World Heritage List.  Other activities have included socio-architectural surveys in the old city by the Lebanese University of Beirut.
  4. After the international seminar of May 2001, a plan of action was prepared by the three UNESCO sectors (Natural Sciences, Culture, Social and Human Sciences) for specific activities in the fields of coastal erosion, cultural heritage conservation and urban development. Preliminary steps have been taken to launch these activities.

  1. The MOST activity ‘Growing Up in Cities’ and the Hariri Foundation Project ‘Memory and Belonging’ are helping young people learn about and develop projects to manage their natural and urban environment.

  2. The Khan Hammoud has been surveyed and may be proposed for use as a hotel.

  3. A tripartite agreement was signed in March 2002 between the city of Saïda, the city of La Rochelle and UNESCO on university collaboration and the establishment of a demonstration house in Saïda

Future directions:
  1. Priority areas for future work are the most densely populated areas in the old city and close to the Palestinian camps.
  2. Enhance monuments and archaeological sites.

  3. Conduct impact studies of major urban projects such as the commercial harbour and marina development.

  4. Promote university twinning.

  5. Establish a course in landscape architecture in collaboration with the Lebanese University, Beirut.

  6. Hold an awareness workshop in 2002 for mayors of Lebanese historical cities on the theme of the participation of children and youth in the improvement of the urban environment.

  7. Launch preliminary studies for a Master Plan of Saïda.

  8. Establish a demonstration house to promote the adaptive use of traditional housing with regard to the socio-cultural needs of the population.

  9. A one-year coastal monitoring programme is planned for 2002.


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