UN Atlas: 44 percent of us live in coastal areas

About 44 percent of the world’s population lives within 150 kilometres of the sea. This interesting research result (http://www.oceansatlas.org/servlet/CDSServlet?status=ND0xODc3JjY9ZW4mMzM9KiYzNz1rb3M~) from the UN Atlas of the Oceans is perhaps worth repeating as it, in a few words, justifies the need for integrated coastal management, i.e. that kind of management of natural resources and their uses which puts a lot of emphasis on cooperation, coordination and multiple use of resources. With such a high percentage of people within a narrow coastal zone, the traditional one-eyed sectoral approaches, which favour exclusive uses, are likely to fail.
Coastal cities are usually important ports, which provide access to and from the interior through a major river. In addition, they are hot spots of fisheries providing us with animal protein, and ocean-related recreation, which is rapidly growing. Furthermore, most of the world´s megacities with more than 2,5 million inhabitants are in the coastal area.
As regards specific needs to manage coastal resources well, the UN Atlas of the Oceans (http://www.oceansatlas.org) offers the following critical statements:
“Unfortunately, the rapid increase in the number of people living near the coast this century has created an imbalance that is destroying the very resources that made these places attractive.”
“Too often, there is no co-ordination between the various actors in coastal development – fisheries, entrepreneurs and developers, water authorities, local government, housing authorities, waste disposal, etc. And goals are often short-term, either for quick profit or to win votes in elections.”
“According to a recent UNEP report on the status of the environment, 1/3 coastal regions run a high risk of degradation, especially from infrastructure development and pollution. In 4/7 coastal regions the degradation is increasing.”
Another estimate on coastal population can be found here:
The indicator “Percentage of total population living in coastal areas” tells us that currently about 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast.
Other relevant information on the assessment method used can be read here:
SEDAC above is the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center based at Columbia University in the U.S., while CIESIN is Center for International Earth Science Information Network at the same university. Through SEDAC, CIESIN is providing pre-calculated data for the Indicator. The information is provided in two alternates: Percent of Total Population Living in the Low Elevation Coastal Zone (less than ten meters elevation), and Percent of Coastline that is Urbanized.
The previous, commonly used estimate, according to which 60 percent of the world´s population lives in the coastal zone, seems to belong to the past. Some time ago this older figure was presented also by the UN Atlas of the Oceans and cited on the Coastal Challenges web pages.

Coastal areas are getting crowded. Their natural resources are under increasing pressures. Photo from New York, N.Y., USA, (c) 2010 Erkki Siirila.

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