Coastal development: A balance between economic progress and environmental conservation.

The coastal resources constitute a vital part of any nation’s economy. A port serves as a commercial trading hub facilitating easy movement of goods. A major advantage of the coastal mode for goods movement is the low cost involved. With advancements in shipping methods and technology, large quantities of cargo can be loaded or unloaded at minimum costs in quick time. Container shipping has greatly revolutionized cargo transportation in this regard. The investments though substantial at entry level, even out as the port becomes functional with lesser infrastructure maintenance and operations cost.
An ideal port
Developing a waterfront for commercial activities requires in-depth planning on several accounts. Ports are generally constructed on coastal areas that overlook a deep natural harbor. This saves considerably on maintenance expenses like dredging which otherwise would be required to maintain minimum operating depth. The topography of the coastal region is also vitally important. The best scenario is a flat coastland served by a good harbor which is functional in all seasons. A flat coastline helps in easy construction and development of waterfront structures which can be served by roadways and railways to facilitate easy transportation of goods inland.

Impact on environment
Maritime activities whether infrastructure development or operations also need to take into consideration the impact on the environment. Often sensitive ecosystems are irreversibly damaged due to unplanned coastal developments. Activities like underwater dredging, especially in areas that house coral reefs, cause immense destruction of the marine flora and fauna. Similarly accidents involving hazardous materials change the coastal landscapes making the area unsuitable for habitation. Planning is vital in the management of coastal activities and development.
Ecosystem Restoration Projects
An ecosystem that has been damaged due to unplanned maritime activities can in some cases be restored to earlier conditions. Construction of inlets that enable confluences of river water with oceanic tides, introduction of minerals and sediments help in providing favorable conditions for regeneration of marine eco systems. Projects like building of embankments like sand bars to protect shore lands or marshy areas have proved to be successful models for ecosystem restoration.

A holistic approach
Development based on a sound financial and economic model while keeping in mind feasibility, project management, design and engineering as well as the environment is what’s needed. A holistic approach works best for projects of such magnitude where one also has to consider the environment and labor related laws of the nation. In most nations around the world the government itself undertakes coastal and water resources development activities or partially funds any private undertakings as part of a public-private initiative.
Safety and security
The long term viability of any maritime project depends upon the security measures in place as well as the disaster management practices. Precautionary measures like surveillance systems help prevent incidents of sabotage. Meteorology equipment helps to a certain extent in predicting the course of storms enabling maritime activities to be conducted safely. Development in harmony with the environment gives best results for maritime projects, an approach which requires extensive strategy and planning.

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