Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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The Kingdom of Morocco

A Moroccan specialist attended the first regional symposium on the ‘Enhancement of Coastal Productivity in the Middle East’ (Elat, Israel, October 1996).

A field project on ‘Urban Development and Freshwater Resources in Small Historic Coastal Cities’ (co-sponsored by UNESCO’s hydrology and human habitat departments) was launched in mid-1996 with the first site in Essaouira. In a transdisciplinary approach, it deals with various problems such as population pressure due to rural-urban migration, threats to cultural heritage from coastal erosion, freshwater insecurity due to saltwater intrusion and aquifer contamination. In 1996-99, a series of consultations at the international level, as well as a consultancy mission (April- May 1997) to advise the national authorities on the protection of the historical town of Essaouira were organized. An intersectoral meeting on ‘Urban Development in the Coastal Environment’ was held in Essaouira in November 1997. It was attended by 38 participants from Morocco and several other interested countries of North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. A report on the conference was published as CSI Info 5: ‘Urban Development and Freshwater Resources: Small Coastal Cities - Proceedings and Recommendations’, ‘Développement urbain et ressources en eau : petites villes côtières - Actes et recommandations’. The meeting formed the basis of a network of small historic coastal cities working together to combat mutual problems.

One student from Morocco attended courses (February- June 1997) at the ‘UNESCO Chair in Coastal Management and Sustainable Development’, University of Dakar, Senegal.

A meeting of the Steering Committee for the intersectoral project ‘Urban Development and Freshwater Resources in Small Historical Coastal Cities’ was held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris at the end of March 1998. It was attended by two experts from Morocco. As part of the same project, a series of actions were undertaken to protect the historic centre of Essaouira from erosion by the sea. An intersectoral group of consultants visited the town in June 1998 and drafted practical recommendations on the management of freshwater resources and salt-water issues.

An international seminar on ‘Urban Development and Freshwater Resources: small coastal towns’ was held in Essaouira in November 1998. It made various recommendations for the preservation and rehabilitation of the centre of the town. CSI, the local Agenda 21 committee (established by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements - Habitat) and the municipality of Essaouira gave financial support to follow some of these recommendations: cleaning the roads and facades of buildings, organizing the collection of household rubbish, etc.

CSI supported the Third Session of the ‘Universite Conviviale d’Essaouira’ on the theme of ‘The Atlantic dimension of Morocco’ that took place in October 1998.

One participant and one observer from Morocco attended the intersectoral workshop ‘Towards Wise Coastal Development Practices’ held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in the beginning of December 1998. A report on the workshop was published in English and French as CSI info 10 (2000): ‘Pratiques Eclairées pour un Développement Humain Durable dans les Régions Côtières. Résultats d’un Atelier Intersectorial et des Conclusions Préliminaires d’un Forum Virtuel Subséquent’. It contains a paper on the restoration of Essaouira’s ramparts.

An awareness campaign ‘Clean Cities’ has been ongoing in Essaouira since 1999.

A presentation on the Essaouira pilot project was given at an international seminar held in Mahdia, 21-24 June 1999 on ‘Sustainable Urban Development in the Coastal Zone’ that was organized by UNESCO and the Tunisian Ministry of the Environment. A report on the seminar was published as CSI info 8 (2000) ‘Développement Urbain Durable en Zone Côtière. Actes du Séminaire International’.

The Director of the UNESCO Rabat Office participated in the UNESCO conference on ‘Sustainable Development of Coastal Resources in the Nordic and Baltic Countries’. The conference, held in Fredrikstad, Norway, in May 1999, was organized by the Norwegian National Commission for UNESCO.

In July 1999 a paper on ‘Cultural Tourism: Restoring an Historic City / Essaouira - Morocco’ was posted on the web-based ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development’ Forum. A follow-up paper ‘Options for Protecting a Rampart Threatened by Coastal Erosion’ was posted in February 2000. A report on the forum ‘Work in Progress 2’ /  ‘Progrès Accomplis 2’ / ‘Avance de Actividades 2’ was published in November 2000; one person from Morocco contributed to it.

Various studies of Essaouira’s historic sea wall have been made since 1997. These were collated and analysed in 2000 and 2001, and in combination with estimates of recent deterioration, were used to determine the priorities for work to consolidate the site.

A representative from the UNESCO Rabat Office visited Essaouira a few times in 2001 and 2002 to consult with national authorities and prepare project activities for the following biennium.

A summary of the historic coastal cities project was compiled in May 2002 in French and English.


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