Feature Story

A Treasured Coastline: building resilience along Tunisia’s Coasts

June 2, 2017

Tunisia coastline
With financial support from Global Environment Facility's Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), a UNDP-supported project is building on previous efforts and working to promote innovative adaptation strategies, technologies, and financing options.

Tunisia’s coastal zone teems with life. It is a densely populated area, with most of the country’s large cities, and two-thirds of its people. With its varied topography and an irregular 1,445km of continental coastline extended from the North to the East, plus 450km of island coastline, the coastal zone is a vital habitat for both humans and marine biodiversity.

The coastal zone also plays a pivotal role in the country’s development. The diverse coastal environment powers more than 80% of the country’s economic activities, houses 90% of its tourism infrastructure, and is the site of a major share of the nation’s irrigated agriculture.

However, a lack of capacity to deal with the impacts of climate change in coastal zones represents a significant risk. Innovative adaptation strategies are needed to proactively address the risks posed by climate change on populations and key socio-economic sectors in Tunisia’s most vulnerable coastal areas.

Twenty years ago in the autumn, the weather was cold and we would fish octopus. But, it is no longer the case today, the climate has changed and we haven’t been able to keep up… We don’t know what kind of actions and measures we can undertake… but it is clear that we need as soon as possible concrete solutions to live in better conditions.” – Jamal Zayoud, Fisherman, Djerba

In response to these issues, the Government of Tunisia identified sea level rise and coastal development as a top priority for adaptation action.

The palm tree is referred to as ‘the tree of the fisherman’; this fisherman is loading palms on his boat for the maintenance of his fishery.

Established in 1995, Tunisia's Coastal Protection and Planning Agency has responsibility for coastal protection in general and the protection of the Maritime Public Domain. Its mission is to manage coastal areas and to ensure their compliance with national and international rules and standards, and to conduct studies and research on coastal change and the evolution of coastal ecosystems.

Executed by the Coastal Protection and Planning Agency, under the Ministry of Local Affairs and the Environment, a UNDP-supported project was designed to: Address climate change vulnerabilities and risks in coastal areas of Tunisia.

With financial support from Global Environment Facility's Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), the project is building on these efforts and working to promote innovative adaptation strategies, technologies, and financing options.

The major challenge for Djerba and most coastal areas in Tunisia lies in the fact that, on the one hand, local human and economic activities are particularly dependent for their adaptation on the services and goods provided by coastal ecosystems. While, on the other hand, these territories now face an unprecedented level of environmental stress.

“Today we are witnessing the erosion of the west coast and the gradual disappearance of the barrier beach... We are aware of the risks, but what means do we have to act apart from participating in demonstrations and raising awareness campaigns? Our urgent need is the development of a strategic vision for the future, a vision considering the sustainable development.” – Jebril Mustapha, Deputy Mayor of Ghar El Melh, Bizerte October 2016

As tourism increases, and new seaside resorts are built, the project is working to ensure that regulations and enforcement mechanisms include climate considerations.

Tourism development efforts also mean investments in the infrastructure and water sectors, but they must consider the existing and anticipated risks of climate change. As such, the project is making sure that there is good information governing coastal land use, drawing on impact scenarios generated by coastal models to develop local adaptation plans for Tunisia’s vulnerable coasts.

The project is working to introduce, in close collaboration and consultation with national and local partners, economic and financial instruments, such as taxes and insurance mechanisms both to mobilise internal resources for coastal defence and adaptation investments, and to regulate development in highly sensitive and exposed coastal regions.

For more information on the project, please visit the UNDP CCA project profile here.

Story by Andrea Egan, Tunisia Coastal protection and planning Agency and UNDP Tunisia / Photos: UNDP Tunisia

This story was originally published by UNDP. Read it in Spanish here.