Coastal zoning

Technology group

Technology Owners

  • PEMSEA have implemented such scheme is many sites in Asia, including Xiamen, Batangas, Bataan, Bali, Danang, Port Klang and Nampho
  • Government
  • Community

Needs Addressed

Planning processes and guidance for the protection of coastal region and/or development

Adaptation Effects

Negative social, economic and ecological impacts of climate change can be mitigated.

Overview and Features

Coastal zoning is a process of delineating the coastal areas into land and sea use zones, designating permitted, prohibited and conditional uses in order to plan better management of the coastal and surrounding areas to reduce coastal vulnerability stemming from sea-level rise, changing weather patterns, storm surges and coastal erosion, which are challenging traditional systems for use and development of coastal lands. It provides efficient mechanisms for allocating coastal space for appropriate uses based on the suitability with environmental, social and economic conditions, and compatibility with sustainable development objectives and principles, and with policies and legal requirements.

Coastal zoning is the division of coastal areas into zones that can be assigned different purposes and user restrictions. It allows multiple users to benefit from a coastal area under a broader sustainable management strategy. Coastal zoning schemes can constitute the regulatory and planning framework for other management options. Coastal zoning is a relatively simple and effective way of managing and separating incompatible or multiple uses of a coastal area. In a specific zone, certain activities can be allowed, allowed with permission, or forbidden, and the zoning can be geared to a range of different conditions, such as economic development, tourism, conservation and hazard presence (Australian Government 2015a; Haslett 2009). The zoning is generally managed and enforced by public authorities and can be developed in consultation with different coastal stakeholders.


The zoning system generally requires a high level of coordination and public participation and is regulated at different administrative levels. In many countries, laws, acts and planning regulations are already in place and coastal zoning activities will therefore be an integral part of these frameworks. Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) - where all key interests and physical conditions are considered - is closely related to coastal zoning.

Technology Performance

Zoning processes have resulted in new legislation or in policy reforms to support the coastal use plan e.g. in China (PEMSEA, 2007); Malaysia and Cambodia (Jeppesen, and Monyneath, 2002)

Considerations (technology transfer criteria, challenges, etc.)

  • Requires technical and scientific inputs
  • Requires effective stakeholder participation and appropriate institutional arrangements for development and implementation

Co-benefits, Suitability for Developing Countries

  • Contributes to sustainable land use practices and sustainable development
  • Coastal zoning is a low cost option
  • This approach benefits communities by local heightening awareness of sustainable land use options and hazard zones
  • The overall benefits and alternative opportunities for communities’ livelihoods must be considered before implementation of costal zoning as it may disrupt livelihood activities through designating some areas of land to certain uses or through restricting livelihood activities on some parts of the land altogether.
  • Zoning can reduce the mortality rate of poor and marginalised fishermen
  • Protects natural coastal environments and marine nursing grounds while at the same time allowing for economic and recreational activity.
  • Adapts for a wide range of conservation purposes and can be combined with scientific monitoring programs to optimize the coastal resource use.
  • Covers management of multiple uses of the same coastal area, benefiting everyone.
  • Provides significant economic benefits through optimized value generation from the different coastal activities.
  • Minimizes exposure to coastal hazards, for example through coastal setback policies.


  • Zoning supporting environmental practices in Xiamen, Sihanoukville and Danang (PEMSEA, 2007)
  • Introduction of zoning in Thailand (Kay, n.d.)
  • Planning and criteria development for zoning in Malaysia and Cambodia (Jeppesen, and Monyneath, 2002)

Information Resources

  • UNEP-DHI Partnership- Coastal zoning
  • Jeppesen, G. and Monyneath, V. 2002. ICM Interventions: Case Studies in Malaysia and Cambodia. DHI Group. Available at: [[1]] [07 April 2015]
  • Kay, n.d. Session II: Improved Coastal Zone Planning and Management: Integrated Coastal Zone Planning in Asian Tsunami-Affected Countries. FAO Corporate Document Repository Available at: [[2]] [30 November 2014]
  • Norman, 2009. Planning for Coastal Climate Change. Victorian Government Department of Planning and Community Development and Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne. Available at: [[3]] [30 November 2014]
  • PEMSEA, 2007. A Regional Mechanism Facilitating Sustainable Environmental Benefits in River Basins, Coasts, Islands and Seas. Partnerships In Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (1994-2010). PEMSEA IEC Material 2. Available at: [[4]]