Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

Cities & Coasts Project

Coastal cities are dynamic complex systems which need energy, water, food and other resources in order to function and support diverse activities. If managed properly cities have the potential to offer better socio-economic conditions and quality of life to residents as well as the wider nation within which they sit. The integrated adaptive management and sustainable development of coastal cities is therefore essential, with science, technology, architecture, socio-economic information, and planning, all contributing to key insights and perspectives essential for durable decision making.

Importantly, coastal cities sit on the nexus of climate change and the ocean. Climate change impacts, particularly rising sea levels, increased storm events, and tidal surges, have significant adverse impacts on concentrations of vulnerable populations living in coastal cities in WIO region. Large areas of many coastal cities in the region are situated at low elevation (below 10 metres above mean sea level) making them particularly vulnerable. In addition, as focal points for large populations and socio-economic activity, climate influence on aspects such as thermal stress, water quality and supply, and energy demand all add to the vulnerability these human systems face.

The links between environment, society and economy in urban centres are important in the countries of the WIO region, and there is a need to better understand their interdependencies, and the associated constraints to sustainable development. This understanding should inform planning and decision-making in city environments. The coastal zone of the WIO region hosts major cities, harbours, industries and other development infrastructure that, whilst vulnerable themselves, are increasingly posing threats to the integrity of coastal and marine ecosystems and potentially worsening their own situation.