Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 12

2. Nature of the conflicts

‘Coastal conflict resolution requires that coastal management be about people management most of the time’

Alain De Comarmond and Rolph Payet, 2001

 

This chapter describes and discusses the nature of some of the conflicts that exist within urban and industrial coastal areas, non-urban coastal areas, and in protected coastal areas, such as marine parks. While not a comprehensive coverage, it nevertheless presents a wide-ranging picture based on the CSI field projects and university chairs and the extensive experience of the workshop participants. As noted in the preceding quotation, conflict prevention and resolution focuses on people – their perceptions, wants and needs – in relation to their understanding and interaction with the environment and each other. This chapter is therefore about resource users – people living and working in coastal areas. It is about the tourism developer and the fishers, the urban dweller who requires water for his daily needs and the farmer needing water for irrigation. It is also about the conflicts that exist between people trying to manage these resources, the fisheries administrator and the harbour master; and about the conflicts between researchers and professionals of different disciplines, the marine biologist and the engineer.

Resolution of these conflicts, the subject of Chapter 3, requires a ‘meeting of the minds’. This involves people interacting, and through discussion, learning to understand each other’s problems and needs. As a result, a more complete picture of the situation evolves. Eventually, through a process of consensus building, agreement can be reached.

While the subject of this workshop is conflict resolution and prevention, it may be impossible to completely prevent or resolve conflict in a general sense.

‘MANY SOCIOLOGISTS BELIEVE THAT CONFLICT CAN NEVER BE FULLY PREVENTED OR RESOLVED. IT CAN ONLY BE MANAGED OR REDUCED TO A LEVEL WHERE ITS DYSFUNCTIONS ARE ELIMINATED. IN FACT A LITTLE CONFLICT OR A MANAGEABLE CONFLICT IS FUNCTIONAL IN MANY WAYS. SO THE GOAL SHOULD BE TO REDUCE CONFLICT TO A MANAGEABLE LEVEL, NOT TO PREVENT OR RESOLVE IT’.

((Mr Vidyut Joshi, Workshop Discussion, Maputo 2001)

Furthermore, what is often referred to as conflict may more correctly be described as conflict of interest, which arises from peoples’ different value systems, status, educational background and economic circumstances.

Coastal conflicts in urban and industrial areas

This section will discuss some of the points of conflict that exist in coastal cities and urban areas on a case-by-case basis. The discussion includes large tropical coastal megacities such as Lagos in Nigeria and Jakarta in Indonesia, as well as small historic coastal cities such as Mahdia in Tunisia, Kotor in Yugoslavia, and Omisalj in Croatia. Coastal industries are another area presenting special types of conflict, as is seen in a ship-breaking yard in Gujarat, India.

The disposal of solid waste is an enormous global problem, affecting small communities and large cities alike. Improper waste disposal leads to human health problems, contamination of water supplies, environmental degradation, loss of livelihoods, and unsightly surroundings. Two tropical megacities where the disposal of solid waste is causing serious problems and conflicts are described below.

Jakarta Bay, a shallow bay located north of Jakarta, contains an archipelago of 108 islands, the Seribu Islands. As the Jakarta Metropolitan Area has expanded over the last century, the bay has been increasingly affected by pollution, natural ecosystem transformation, non-sustainable coastal resource exploitation and coastal erosion. For example, three of the 108 Seribu Islands have disappeared in the last 15 years.

 
Solid waste collection in Jakarta,
Indonesia, 1997
Solid waste on the shore, Jakarta,
Indonesia, 1997

Solid waste pollution is one major area of concern. Inadequate collection, transport and disposal of solid waste have significant negative economic and ecological impacts. In 1996/1997, daily garbage production in Jakarta was about 25,578 m3 (UNESCO, 2000b). It is estimated that 40% of the solid waste generated daily does not reach official disposal sites. Instead it is dumped in waste channels and rivers, causing pollution, clogging of water channels and flooding. A small percentage is disposed of on vacant land and/or burned. The 13 rivers and canals that flow through the Jakarta Metropolitan Area pick up large amounts of solid waste (approximately 1,400 m3 per day). Although 300 m3 of waste is recovered daily from the rivers, 1,100 m3 escapes collection and flows directly into Jakarta Bay. In 1985 and 1995 a survey on the extent of solid waste pollution on 24 islands in the Seribu archipelago showed that total litter on the shore has increased twofold during the ten-year period, and that litter had reached islands located more than 60 km offshore.

The disposal of large quantities of solid waste into the sea has resulted in a covering of plastic on the seafloor in Jakarta Bay, affecting coral reefs, seagrass beds and fish. This situation has a considerable negative economic impact on the livelihoods of fishers and others in the Seribu Islands. In Jakarta itself, the solid waste problems combined with poor sanitation and increasing poverty result in an increased incidence of common infectious diseases and reduce the availability of safe drinking water. (See paper by Fazi et al.)

 

Debris and garbage
blocking a drainage
channel in Ikoyi Island,
Lagos, Nigeria,
July 2002

Blocked drainage
channels result in
frequent flooding during
the rainy season, Lagos,
Nigeria, July 2002

In Lagos, Nigeria, the disposal of solid waste causes similar problems and is also exacerbating a flooding problem (Awosika et al., 2000). Victoria and Ikoyi Islands, the two main barrier island complexes in Lagos State, are made up of residential, commercial and tourism facilities, and are surrounded by the Lagos Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. Even though the islands have a network of ancillary and main drainage channels with outfalls to Lagos Lagoon, they experience annual flooding during the rainy season, May to October, especially when the rains coincide with high tides. Large areas of the islands are flooded, causing a disruption of socio-economic activities with concomitant adverse effects on the economy of Lagos State and the entire nation of Nigeria.

‘THE RAINS ARE HERE. THIS MEANS THAT LAGOS, THE COUNTRY’S MOST POPULOUS STATE AND ECONOMIC NERVE CENTRE IS AGAIN UNDER FLOODS. ELITE AREAS LIKE IKOYI, MIDDLE CLASS SUBURBS LIKE SURULERE, AND HEAVILY POPULATED AREAS LIKE MUSHIN AND BADIA WERE UNDER WATER. SO HEAVY ARE THE RAINS THAT SOME LAGOSIANS BECAME INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE AS THE FLOODS SUCKED THEM FROM THEIR HOMES, WHILE STRUCTURES AND CARS WERE ALSO DAMAGED ... FLOODING HAS BECOME A PERMANENT FEATURE OF LAGOS LIFE. SOMETIMES LIVES ARE ALSO LOST.’

(The Vanguard, 26 June 2000)

A study of the major drainage channels revealed that most of the drainage channels were clogged with domestic waste and sediment and in some cases the channels were blocked by buildings. Other factors contributing to the flooding included inadequate channel gradient and sometimes reverse gradients, and collapsed channel walls. A questionnaire survey showed that few people were well prepared to tackle the problems; the drainage channels were ineffective because they were either blocked by sand or refuse; and inadequate garbage containers resulted in residents dumping refuse in the drainage canals. (See paper by Folorunsho & Awosika).

Population growth and the migration of people from the countryside to the city in search of a better life, are major problems in many tropical megacities.

‘IN NIGERIA, A PERSON’S STATUS IS RELATED TO THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN THEY HAVE, AND WHILE THERE HAVE BEEN CAMPAIGNS TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF BIRTHS, IT WILL TAKE A LONG TIME TO CHANGE THIS WAY OF THINKING’.

(Ms Regina Folorunsho, Workshop discussion, Maputo, 2001)

‘THERE IS A NEED TO IMPROVE CONDITIONS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE SO AS TO REDUCE THE MIGRATION TO THE CITIES’.

(Mr Antonio Hoguane, Workshop discussion, Maputo, 2001)

Aerial view of Medina, the historical city centre of Mahdia, 1998

In small historic cities, such as exist around the Mediterranean, the scale and sometimes the nature of the problems and conflicts are different. In Mahdia, a small city in Tunisia with 50,000 inhabitants, the historical city centre, or Medina, has served many functions over the centuries: an industrial centre, a commercial centre, a religious and historical centre. Within the last 20 years, the introduction of tourism has adversely impacted the urban fabric and architectural heritage of the Medina.

Countries emerging from a long-term conflict face different issues. Two of the main ones are isolation and a high dependency on foreign aid. In the case of the former Yugoslavia, some federal states that were once part of the country are now newly independent states, and others are still seeking new political status. In Kotor, Yugoslavia (Montenegro), a paramount issue has been to try and break the isolation factor. One way has been through association with the Small Historical Coastal Cities network. Another example of post-war conflict lies in the dependency on donor-driven projects. All too often local decision-makers do not properly screen project tenders. They face the dilemma of delaying development and reconstruction activities so as to properly identify their national priorities, or responding rapidly to donors’ pressure for specific projects possibly at the cost of long-term planning and development. However, this dilemma is not confined to post-war situations. (See paper by MacClenahan).

When large groups of people move into and out of coastal urban areas, conflicts often result. Two examples are described here, one at Omisalj in Croatia and the other near Bhavnagar in the state of Gujarat, India. (See papers by MacClenahan, Chaudhary and Joshi).

  

Roman archaeological site of Fulfinium
with a petrochemical plant in the 
background, Omisalj, Croatia, 2000

The city of Omisalj is located on the small island of Krk in the northern Adriatic and is linked to the mainland by a bridge. Since the 1960s, the island has experienced a twofold process of emigration of locals to the USA and immigration of newcomers associated with the industrial development of the nearby continental area. Emigrants to the USA supplied a significant share of the everyday needs of the local population by sending money home. This resulted in some labour-intensive, low-income generating activities, such as agriculture, being progressively abandoned, which impacted on the landscape and caused an associated loss of identity and belonging. In addition, the highly centralized and collective government policy during 1960–1980 diminished individual decision-making, leaving most of the population in a psychologically dependent state.

With the industrialization of the nearby continental area, and more recently the opening of a market economy, a new population is settling on the island. This immigration process has changed the social fabric of the community and the socio-economic balance. There is a split in identity between the two populations, which a local councillor explained in the following terms: ‘Natives failed to open up a social space for newcomers, and newcomers failed in the way they called for space’. The process of modernization brought about by outsiders has undermined the local ability to manage their own resources. However, as a result of money being sent home by relatives abroad, the local population had already lost contact and interest in their own land and resources. A major issue here is to establish communication between the two groups, so as to determine a common vision and ideas for the common good.

  

Workers at the Alang 
Sosiya ship-breaking 
yard, December 2001

The opening of a new coastal industry at Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India, in the early 1980s generated a large influx of migrant workers, who increasingly came into conflict with the local population. The Alang Sosiya Ship-breaking Yard (ASSBY) is situated near the village of Alang, 55 km from Bhavnagar City. The unique geographical combination of high tidal range and a wide continental shelf allows very heavy ships to be beached easily at high tide. ASSBY is one of the largest ship-breaking yards in the world. There are 182 plots, and during the mid-1990s there were about 35,000 labourers employed directly in ship-breaking. Most labourers are migrants from other Indian states, e.g. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Punjab, and they send most of their wages home to their families. They are mainly young men, and often illiterate. Their living conditions are poor and their working conditions are hazardous.

There are ten villages within a 12 km radius of ASSBY. Prior to the arrival of the ship-breaking yard, there were few jobs and most people worked in agriculture. Now the villagers work in ancillary jobs, such as tea and provision shops, and shops that sell articles recovered and recycled from the ships, e.g. ropes, engines etc. While recognizing their improved job opportunities as a result of ASSBY, the villagers have also witnessed increased demand for scarce local resources such as water and fuel wood.

The villagers and migrant workers exist side by side; however, they do not mix culturally or socially, speak different languages, and often harbour resentment towards each other. There are two other major groups of stakeholders: the ship owners or industrialists who wish to increase their profits and turn ship-breaking into an organized industry with good infrastructure and a high standard working environment. The fourth main stakeholder group is the Gujarat Maritime Board which is a government authority concerned with planning and infrastructure, worker safety and living conditions, and environmental damage.

The four groups, all involved in the one industry, have different concerns and priorities and, as a result, numerous conflicts have occurred. Conflicts have resulted in fighting and police complaints. Often the local villagers feel the migrant workers get the better paid jobs and refuse to rent accommodation to them or have any social interaction. As in Omisalij, there is resentment of the workers who have come in from other areas. The migrant workers, while earning comparatively good wages, are concerned about their living conditions and their work safety. The ship breakers and the Gujarat Maritime Board are also worried about the adverse publicity they have received due to poor environmental and working conditions. There is an underlying feeling of mistrust between the different stakeholder groups.

The cases described above all deal with conflicts between different groups of people living in urban or industrial areas. Often these groups never come face to face or think of each other – as a householder throws waste into a Jakarta river, it does not occur to him/her that their action impacts a fisher’s catch several kilometres away. Residents in Lagos who indiscriminately throw their garbage into a drainage channel, may not make the link between this action and the annual flooding events which may be seen instead as an ‘act of God’. Groups of workers moving into new industrial areas, such as in Omisalj and ASSBY, do not expect to be shunned by the local residents. Misunderstandings between the different groups and a lack of vision of the broader economic, social and environmental context, beyond an individual’s immediate locale, are common factors in these case studies.

continued

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