By Carolina Martínez, in Diario La Tercera.
Chile has a coastline characterized by very rapid urban and social transformation processes, enhanced by the extractive economic model that we have and which is characterized by using many components of our resources that are in coastal marine ecosystems, as raw material. These transformation processes have taken natural and cultural capital at our expense.
The beaches, dune fields and wetlands they keep vestiges of human settlements, therefore, there is a lot of cultural wealth and paleontological and archaeological heritage. It is not uncommon to see that every time a wetland is filled in, this cultural heritage emerges and goes unnoticed when spaces of the coastal ecosystem are occupied, which should have much more rigorous protection.
We are losing very quickly a natural capital present on our long coastline, thereby generating damage due to degradation, mainly due to urban growth and uncontrolled urbanization of the coastal area. This degradation of the coast, makes us increase our exposure to natural hazards and extreme events, triggering for example coastal erosion that until 10 years ago was not included as a threat. We are therefore building more disaster risk.
In the last five years we have seen great changes in the coastal landscape and an increase in extreme weather events such as storm surges and floods – in addition to other threats that in some other way affect the coast such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and floods – that they are causing damage to human life, ecosystems and coastal infrastructure.
In fact, Chile has in recent years had 13 reconstruction processes associated with different threats, many on the coast, which could be an opportunity to rebuild around resilience and adaptation to climate change, however, we are not going down that path yet. We are talking about a historical moment where climate change has not given truce and the investigations speak of a Rising sea levels in the next 15 years, more frequent and intense tidal waves, in addition to the incidence of recurring natural hazards.
The occupation of valuable ecosystems on the coast in our country is critical and we need an urgent change. The real estate supply aggressively uses these ecosystems, although this occupation is regulated in Chile through territorial planning instruments, however, the growth of urban areas exposes many more people to threats of natural origin.
This type of construction carried out on coastal ecosystems generates risk areas, but also degradation and loss of natural capital. According to our research –which covers 70 beaches from Arica to Chiloé– 86% of the total beaches studied are in a state of significant erosion , retreating 1.5 meters per year.
The beaches are effectively receding and the coastal landscape is changing, this is mainly explained in the way of urbanizing in the coastal basins, where we have been obstructing the supply of sediments that feed these beaches and, at the same time, using the water in an irrational way. with the catchment of the drainage system of these basins. These forms of regulated urbanization today are in crisis . Added to this is the pollution of the coast in its various forms.
In light of this scientific evidence we have been providing documents –policy paper – to build a discussion around new coastal management and regulatory instruments , with communities, parliamentarians and the scientific world, so that we collaboratively achieve the sustainable transformation of the coastal zone in Chile. We need to add knowledge that allows us to rethink our relationship with ecosystems, and begin to consider nature as biocultural resources, before it is too late.
That’s why from the Observatory of the Coast that brings together coastal communities, research centers, foundations and non-profit NGOs, we are promoting a draft law – which we will publicize and socialize in the coming months – on a Coastal Law for Chile . We must talk and act for a sustainable transformation that leads to a new coastal governance designed for communities, the protection of their natural and cultural heritage, and that recognizes its public nature and the public use goods it keeps, its ancestral use and bio resources. -cultural.
But we also need a law that protects the coastal zone in its scientific conception and not only the coastal edge as considered by current Chilean regulations, which leaves out the possibility of protecting marine-coastal ecosystems from a systemic and socio-ecological perspective, so necessary for survival. of future generations. Today we have enough scientific evidence to act and work together for change.