The littoral (or coastal) areas are among the most dynamic parts of the globe. They concentrate today nearly two third of the world?s population, and researchers estimate that this proportion will keep on increasing, reaching third fourth of the world?s population within thirty years. The littoral areas are thus at the core of human activities, as they gather all kinds of key aspects in the development of human societies, from trade exchanges to urbanization, through goods? production and innovation. They constitute a considerable advantage for the states which benefit from an opening to maritime areas, and their evolution represents a first importance stake in the future of these states. Indeed, the launch of sustainable development strategies concerning the littoral areas, in order to ensure that the future benefits, resulting from their key position as well as from the exploitation of their resources, will not be made impossible by today?s human activities. In that sense, the policies led by the states as far as these areas are concerned, are deeply rooted in the broader issue of sustainable development as a mean ?to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs?, as it was firstly defined by the Brutland commission in 1987. But this aim seems to be as difficult to reach in the particular case of littoral areas as it is in general, as regard to the dramatic pollution of certain coastal areas. What are the risks resulting from human activities on littoral areas? What are the causes and consequences, in the shorter and longer terms, of these risks? Which policies can or should be led in order to avoid these risks? In other words, is cohabitation between littoral protection and human activities possible? In order to answer these questions, and to discover more precisely the nature of different threats to environment in coastal areas and the possible responses to these threats, we will focus in this essay on the particular case of the French littoral, and more especially of the evolution of its situation and of the policies which have been applied for its protection since the 1960s?. Indeed, this decade marked a U-turn for French society, which resulted from the spectacular changes, which happened after the Second World War (last wave of the rural exodus and urbanization, industrial development, ?baby boom?, growing individualism, era of mass-consumption, in parallel with mass-tourism). These changes paved the way for increased pressure on natural resources and the Environment, but also for growing environmental consciousness among the population. Indeed, while economic growth based itself on the unlimited exploitation of natural resources, it also led to the improvement in living conditions, which progressively allowed the people to diversify their interests, and, among others, to focus more on the Environmental issue (even if such developments first appeared in very limited parts of the Society?). In the first part, we will present the paradoxical discrepancy between the small area covered by the littoral and the important population living on it. Then, we will focus on the different risks that emanate from the human activities in this area. Eventually, we will concentrate on the policies that have been led in order to protect the littoral.
[...] Indeed, whereas the Southern and Atlantic coasts are the most attractive ones, with the highest immigration rates, the Northern littoral is the only one whose population is decreasing. Between those extremes the Corsican littoral remains attractive, but in smaller proportions than the Southern and Atlantic ones. Finally, the overseas coastal areas' population also grows quickly, but this growth is rather linked with “natural increase” than with immigration. This important population growth added to the spreading of the housing is likely to denature the littoral, which is both unique in terms of biodiversity and very fragile. [...]
[...] The “littoral of 1986, which seemed to be a great step forward in the protection of the littoral, was very slowly implemented. It has however prevented the achievements of some big real estate projects and has also contributed to change some habits (constructions are now rather made set back from the sea than very closed to the shore). Nevertheless, the law has not prevented the illegal constructions (which have flourished in some regions), nor the progressive nibbling of the natural areas by the urban spreading. [...]
[...] Indeed, the residential growth and the urbanization have not ceased increasing and the public policies have mainly played a “defensive focusing more on the safeguarding of what could be preserved instead of inflecting these very dynamics. Moreover, the approaches have mainly remained sectoral, without any efficient co-ordination between the different administrative levels, and without trying the terrestrial and maritime points of view. Briefly, there has been not enough efficiency in the co-operation between the different actors both on a vertical and horizontal axis. This can be partly explained by the flourishing of different tools, with various degree of efficiency, which has led to a lack of coherence. [...]
[...] Littoral and human activities: is cohabitation possible? The littoral (or coastal) areas are among the most dynamic parts of the globe. They concentrate today nearly two third of the world's population, and researchers estimate that this proportion will keep on increasing, reaching third fourth of the world's population within thirty years. The littoral areas are thus at the core of human activities, as they gather all kinds of key aspects in the development of human societies, from trade exchanges to urbanization, through goods' production and innovation. [...]
[...] The development of tourism can thus lead to opposite effects concerning the environmental protection. On the one hand, mass tourism presents high risks degrading the environment. Indeed, the impressive tourist concentration on certain littoral areas compared to the existing transport infrastructures has led to the multiplication of harmful effects (such as air pollution for instance) linked with the quasi exclusive use of cars by the tourists (more than 80% of the tourists use their car in order to reach their vacation resort). [...]
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