Since the second half of the 20th century Mediterranean coast is affected with the constantly growing urbanization. Littoralisation, process of concentrating people, activities and infrastructure in the coastal zone, largely nourished by the development of the mass coastal tourism, spread from the northern countries around the Mediterranean basin. Costal urbanization, strongly boosted by the beach tourism, the main form of tourism in this region, is constantly growing. In some countries coastal urbanization is as of today eating up the natural coastal zones at a worrying rate. Coastal urbanisation in addition to cementing shores around our amazing but fragile sea, is often of a worrying quality; we may say - urbanisation without urbanism. Large part of the constructed zones are missing all the contents that makes places desirable for living. Instead, these are the tourism only zones, ghost areas for big part of the year.
For all Mediterranean countries, but particularly for developing ones, tourism is highly desirable economic activity. Beach tourism attracts developers to build as close to the shore as possible. By constructing road infrastructure along the coastline and by choosing prime locations next to the sea, the ribbon type development, linearly extended along the coastline is effectuated. In addition to fragmentation of the eco-system, landscape and geomorphology caused by such urbanisation, there is another related consequence. It is already clear that what we are building along the coast will, in many cases, represent a hard burden for future generations. Already now the coastal floods caused by the extreme weather events are showing that construction should step back from the sea. The room should be left to the sea. More we wait to stop the coastal urbanisation higher costs will have to be met.
The ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean is providing tools to enhance our control over coastal urbanisation. It is inviting for the protection of the coastal zone, use of land policy, economic instruments, environmental assessment, monitoring, and other. Particularly important is it’s so called “setback article”, Article 8. This article is inviting countries to establish a zone of a minimum 100 m where construction is not allowed (with some agreed exemptions), as well as to limit the linear extension of urban development.