Integrated Coastal Area and River Basin Management (ICARM) combines two approaches to water planning: Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). ICARM is not a new management concept, but a process of linking the management activities in the river basin and the coastal zone, where linked issues make this necessary and appropriate. While the two management approaches have developed more or less separately, the situation in the real world is far more interlinked.
There are widely recognised natural resource links between coastal and freshwater systems. Changes in stream flows can be caused by: development projects; land use changes; in particular deforestation and intensive “green revolution agriculture”; harvesting of mangroves; discharges of domestic wastewater; and industrial effluents. All of these developments at first glance mostly impact freshwater systems, but they have caused significant adverse impacts in coastal ecosystems as well. Another example is salinity barrages. They allow for a discharge of freshwater into the sea in case of floods, but not for an intrusion of saltwater into the freshwater system in coastal zones. These barriers can destroy the natural migration patterns for fish and in turn damaged upstream fisheries.
Other links between coastal and freshwater zones are of socio-economic nature. They are equally important, but less visible. Developments in the agricultural sector, for example, may often have severe impacts on coastal fisheries, in places where emissions of surplus fertilisers cause eutrophication, oxygen depletion, and reduction in fish stock. Or water supply needs of the rapidly growing coastal cities and industries create competition with crucial irrigation needs of the agricultural sector in the hinterland.
In order to properly manage these intricacies, institutional links are required. Most often, the two areas are managed by separate authorities in different ministries, with weak communication and coordination. However, to achieve coherent planning and management, it is imperative that these institutions – and stakeholders in communities and businesses – cooperate to overcome differences through the exchange of information, joint establishment of objectives and strategies, transparent resolution of conflicts, etc.
Depending on local and specific issues, ICARM may be anything from a comprehensive management framework for a smaller region to the addition of a coastal delta or estuary to a large river basin plan. As in IWRM planning, ICARM plans include the actions necessary to develop an effective framework of policies, legislation, financing structures, capable institutions with clearly defined roles, and a set of management instruments.
The formulation of an ICARM plan will normally take place at the basin level and can follow a distinct five phase approach:
- Identify the range of issues (natural, socio-economic, and institutional) and links which are of priority in the water body;
- Highlight the issues that may be addressed without accounting for upstream-downstream links and address these in conventional IWRM or ICZM frameworks;
- Identify the linked issues at all levels – national, basin, local, etc.;
- For these linked issues, analyse the present enabling environment, the institutional framework, and the politically and technically appropriate management instruments to address them;
- Prepare strategies to develop the deficient parts in the framework of national policies (A1), legislation and regulations (A2) for ICARM; the Institutional Arrangements (Tools B) that allow a coordinated implementation of ICARM; and the required management instruments and associated skills. International strategies have to be developed in collaboration with other riparian nations.
- A realistic ICARM plan requires the active commitment and joint involvement of both river basin managers and coastal zone managers.
- Institutional deficiencies are often a significant constraint for establishing an efficient management framework.
- Functions, structures and procedures need to take into account the political, social, financial and human resource constraints, the existing institutional structures, the management capacity, and the capacity for change.
- Structures should be designed as the need arises and should be flexible enough to meet immediate needs and leave the possibility for expansion open whenever appropriate.
- Multi-stakeholder involvement (C3.02; C3.03) is essential in the decision processes to formulate a plan whose outcome is acceptable.
- Maintenance of ecosystem productivity is an essential element in the planning process.