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Coastal protection

Integrated coastal zone management for Tamil Nadu, India

18. January 2023

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The South Indian state of Tamil Nadu has a 1,076 km long coastline, which houses a coral reef as well as numerous estuaries, seaweeds, sea grass ecosystems, fishing harbours, ports, and tourist areas. Population growth, urbanisation, industrialisation and growing pollution are putting increasing pressure on this coastal zone. In addition, the state receives an average of 16 cyclonic storms every year – some of them quite severe.

Furthermore, tsunamis in the Bay of Bengal are also of concern. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami greatly impacted Tamil Nadu, which was one of the worst affected areas in India. It highlighted the importance of having an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) plan in place.

With support from the World Bank under the Emergency Tsunami Rehabilitation Project, we helped the Government of Tamil Nadu’s Department of Environment (DOE) develop an ICZM plan. This was the first such plan attempted and completed successfully in India.


ICZM is a dynamic, multidisciplinary and iterative process that promotes the sustainable management of coastal zones. It covers the complete cycle: information collection, planning, decision-making, management, monitoring, and evaluation of implementation. Important planning issues include:

  • review of existing policy as well as the current institutional and legal framework, in order to identify gaps and overlaps
  • developing capacity needs assessment, covering technical, human resources and associated financial aspects, based on the institutional and legal review
  • comprehensive identification and development of awareness and communication strategy with stakeholders
  • review of the information management framework and establish online decision support. A structured information management system should be targeted with well-defined indicators covering ecosystems and environmental concerns, as well as encompassing socioeconomic and other planning dimensions

Our contribution to the Tamil Nadu ICZM plan

The Tamil Nadu ICZM plan had to be amendable in terms of financial, administrative, environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) aspects. It also needed to accommodate the views of the local population and their interests. As part of the ICZM plan, we:

  • conducted land use, capability and vulnerability mapping
  • developed a Special Area Management Plan (SAMP)
  • conducted an inter-sector impact assessment

We prepared land use, capability and vulnerability maps with a scale of 1:5000 with land boundaries visible for the entire coastal stretch. All the maps run from the coast to 2.5 km inland. They go up to the village boundary and include full administrative units. This is the first time for an Indian state to develop maps of this sort for the entire length of its coastline. These maps will benefit various governmental departments and other stakeholders and help in future planning.

In addition, a SAMP was prepared for the DOE requested us to work on specific SAMPs, particularly focusing on:

  • socioeconomic aspects, in terms of community development along with the prevailing coastal problems in Cuddalore
  • engineering solutions to prevent coastal erosion in Tharangambadi
  • conservation of rich mangrove biodiversity in Manakkudy

Stakeholder consultation meetings were conducted at appropriate places and the valuable suggestions received were incorporated into the SAMP. For the inter-sector impact assessment, we identified and described the most significant environmental issues such as pollution in estuaries due to aquaculture and industry, degradation of mangroves due to forestry, overfishing and erosion, among others as well as social issues in the areas. Since ICZM is a new tool in India, we provided training to the government officials, NGOs and stakeholders as well.


Results include improved coordination of developmental activities along the coast of Tamil Nadu and the ability to balance environmental economic, social, cultural and recretioal objective with the dynamics of nature. Aditionally it provided the government and stakeholders with a trusted tool for future planning.