Coastal zone is dynamic space where terrestrial environment interacts with coastal shallow water as a single ecosystem. However, land and sea has for long time been tought of as separate entities that are governed separately, too. The tendency is exacerbated in urban setting that are usually highly developed and densely populated. Management of the urban coastal zone, therefore, clearly differs from that for underdeveloped or less populated areas.
Urban coastal spaces usually have high economic value due to its strategic geographical location that connects land and sea in one hand, and unique transitional ecosystem which is resource-rich. However, coastal zone management in urban areas uses a sectoral approach that results in an ineffective and inefficient management practices.
Synthetic and integrated approach is required to tackle the many problems plaguing coastal zones which are mostly trans-boundary and inter-sectoral in nature. Participation, not only of local residents but also non-residents, is vital to the management, since there is usually intensive movement of people in urban coastal zones.
In this regard, lack of participation on local community’s part may be understood as “non-income poverty”. Poverty can be expressed not only in monetary sense i.e people’s purchasing power to obtain basic needs, but also in a “non-income” sense that comprises capabilities, vulnerabilities and participation. Lack of voice to influence the decisions that affect ones’ lives is also considered a poverty. Participation, therefore, is understood as people’s ability to influence decision-making processes, such as the definition of laws and regulations.
In order to be able to do so, local people must firstly be made aware of their rights to participate. Institutions must also be made available to channel their aspirations. Experts are very confident about the virtue of greater participation of resource users in resource management. They claim that it can have positive impacts on all of the dimensions of poverty, resulting in favourable outcomes for the livelihoods of poor people.
Elaborating on the participation as one of non-income poverty, a greater participation of fishers and fishing communities in participatory management schemes requires a series of empowerment efforts through policies such as formation of groups, capacity-building, access to information and responsive policy environment, and so forth. This, in turn, may instill a confidence and political awareness that can be applied in other aspects of their lives.
Decentralization is also conducive because it enables local governments to fundamentally control local fisheries by community-based management system thus promoting local participation. A greater community participation can be attained if more power and resources is placed at a closer, more familiar, more easily influenced level of government i.e. local government. Decentralization, at least in theory, will enable local communities to take parts in decision-making processes due to nearness of social distance between policy maker and the people, who must feel the policy influence.
It is hoped that greater community participation shall lead to better and more equal access to resource use thus impacting positively on the community’s general welfare. In the past, Indonesia pursued a highly centralized approach in almost every aspect of governance including fisheries. Government institutions in local levels which are responsible for fisheries management serve only as implementors of policy decided centrally by national government.
In such situation, there were no responsibility, participation and sense of stewardship of local people to conserve and protect marine resources from destructive activities. Decentralization, therefore, presented a hope for the promotion of local community participation in fisheries and coastal resources management. It is proven as a key variable for strengthening community-based fisheries management system.
NMN Expert Editor