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Considering the locals: coastal construction and destruction in times of climate change on Anjouan, Comoros

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Ratter, B., Petzold, J., & Sinane, K. (2016). Considering the locals: coastal construction and destruction in times of climate change on Anjouan, Comoros. Natural Resources Forum, 40(3), 112-126. doi:10.1111/1477-8947.12102.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-423C-0
The current discussion of anticipated climate change impacts and future sea level rise is particularly relevant to small island states. An increase in natural hazards, such as floods and storm waves, is likely to have a devastating impact on small islands' coastlines, severely affecting targeted sustainable development. Coastal erosion, notably human-induced erosion, has been an ongoing threat to small island biodiversity, resources, infrastructure, and settlements, as well as society at large. In the context of climate change, the problem of coastal erosion and the debate surrounding it is gaining momentum. Before attributing associated impacts to climate change, current human activities need to be analysed, focusing not only on geomorphological and climatological aspects, but also on political and traditional cultural frameworks. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate the importance of the social-political-ecological systems analysis for adaptation strategies, and thus for future sustainable development. Coastal use is based on human constructs of the coast, as well as local perceptions and values ascribed to the coast. We use the case study of Anjouan, Comoros to differentiate between constructive and destructive practices on the coast, from both a mental and technical perspective. Beach erosion is described as more than a resource problem that manifests itself locally rather than nationally. Divergent political scales of interest impact future development as much as local action. Local action is not least framed by mental contribution and attribution of coasts as places for living, recreation and resource use. The present case study demonstrates that mental constructs of coasts as valuable areas can, in some cases, lead to the protection and preservation of beaches by initiatives of collective action. At the same time, local communities see the negative impacts of sand mining as causes of coastal erosion and, therefore, it is difficult to mobilize them to adapt to climate change and sea level rise.