Ecological planning in European countries today is supported by laws and regulations and integrated into the hierarchy of planning. In The Federal Republic of Germany between 1950 and 1970, for instance, attempts to rapid industrialization for developmental purposes led to irreversible damage to natural environment. In response to this, the Nature Conservation Act and relevant regulations were accepted in 1970s so that natural resources would be enabled to continue their ecological and biological functions. These laws and regulations included such precautions as (Kiemstedt, 1998):
– Ensuring functionality of current natural resources,
– Protecting natural resources and making them usable,
– Ensuring the continuance of landscapes formed by natural creatures.
Those who are responsible for making and implementing decisions with physical plans are governed by these laws and regulations. These plans consist of such stages as:
– Landscape framework plan,
– Landscape program,
– Land use plan.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992) discussed, among other things, the protection and rational use of coastal zones and emphasized the importance of holistic coastal management. Bimilarly, it was emphasized, in the 787th meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in July 23, 1992, that strategic planning and holistic approach to coastal issues should be developed and a reasonable balance should be established between carrying capacity and tourism development in coastal zones (Anonymous, 1993).
In the U. S.A, where coastal areas were dominated by certain land uses such as business, industry, housing, tourism and recreation, coastal protection and planning attempts started in California in 1967. In 1972, the government accepted the Coastal Zone Management Act in order to protect, develop and utilize resources in coastal zones. According to popular opinion in the U. S.A, the state where the coastal zone project was first put into effect was California. The coastal zone of California is 1770 km in length, from the Mexican boundary to the southern-western boundary of Oregon. The propositions included in the project were (Arslan, 1988):
– Coastal Waters: With the aim of maintaining the quality of coastal waters, to launch a fund for refining all dangerous pollutants and effluent water before the discharge, to compensate for the damage caused by oil spills in a quick manner and to clean the waters as soon as possible,
– Soil: With the aim of protecting the flora in coastal zones, to conduct meticulous studies, to monitor sandpits and stone pits, to protect areas where salmons and whitefish lay their eggs, to open fertile plains and valleys only to agricultural activities,
– Coastal View: To ensure that such large facilities as industry centers and shopping malls are founded into the land and that urban development is in consistent with natural structure,
– Development: To ensure that new developments are concentrated on places where infrastructure is favorable, that rural area planning does not change natural character, that no power plant is included unless they are really necessary and that special precautions are taken for protecting coastal features in all respects,
– Energy: To ensure that a policy of energy conservation is adopted in coastal zones and that there are incentives to undertake projects on obtaining energy from the sun, wind, geothermal resources and methane gases,
– Transportation: To use air and sea transportation services at full capacity,
– Coastal Accessibility: To ensure that the public can access to the coast,
– Recreation: To identify the zones that are used for recreational purposes (intensive, medium, low), to determine the carrying capacity of the zone and to compose management plans,
– Educational and Scientific Use: To ensure that special precautions are taken in order to protect areas of historical, archeological, educational or scientific value,
– Restoration of Coastal Resources: To develop landscape restoration techniques in order to protect and rehabilitate the coasts whose ecological features have been disrupted,
– Expenditures: To launch a fund for long-term expenditures of the project.
Cancun (Mexico) is a good example of threats brought about by coastal tourism and precautions taken. Cancun is located on the Yucatan peninsula, eastern Mexico, and a worldwide famous holiday spot. In 1970, the city was defined as a significant tourist attraction because of its climatic conditions, a 19 km-lenght white beach, population of coconut palms, clean water, rich water products, a 50 km2-lenght well-protected lagoon system, being the second largest coral reef barrier of the world that starts 30 m off the coast, having rich underground water resources and being an important archeological area. The distinguishing natural feature of Cancun is the Nichupte Lagoon System (Clark, 1996).
The basic problem here was the increase in the number of holiday resorts established in the city, which had been developing as a holiday spot. The increases in the areas of employment, the number of annual tourists and the number of accommodations were regarded as an accomplishment; however, environmental quality was neglected. Among the indicators of the change in environmental quality were (Clark, 1996):
– Disruptions in the Nichupte Lagoon System,
– Impacts on underground water resources,
– Openings in the flora along the highways,
– Decreases in the number of beaches and dunes,
– Problems associated with accessing or using beaches and dunes, and
– Visual pollution. The economy was based on tourism, which led to increases in the amount of pressure.
Planning and rehabilitation activities for the City of Cancun were focused on:
– Urban development based on protecting the nature,
– Protecting the environment, ways of using natural resources,
– Revision of nature-human relationship,
– Aesthetic and functional regulations in the area of tourism. The scope of the planning was mainly defined as the harmony between the natural environment and urban components and the integration of homogenous, dynamic and proper complexes. The areas of tourism were reorganized through precautions that imposed a limit on the use of natural resources with a consideration into aesthetics and functionality.
"A major problem in land use and management is achieving a reconciliation among such conflicting goals as resource-extractive activities, infrastructure of human settlement, recreational activities, services provided by ecological systems, support of aesthetic, cultural and religious values and maintaining the compositional and structural complexity of ecological systems. The more different goals stakeholders have, the more difficult land use decisions can be. The process of planning and decision-making should consider the ecological, socio-cultural and economic values of the landscape so as to achieve a new spirit of reconciliation between landscape conversation and changing demands (Dale et al., 2001)."
"It seems that the problems in ecological planning are brought about by disagreements between land use and environment. These disagreements are usually of five origins: i) initially poor land use decisions ii) environmental change iii) social change as well as technological change iv) violations of human values about the mistreatment of the environment v) geographic or spatial scale (Marsh, 2005)."
The leading reasons for disruptions in the natural structure of the land in coastal zones are irrational settlement processes, irregular and unplanned recreational and touristic facilities, industrial uses, agricultural activities, fill areas and highways that are too near to coasts. The increase in the number of ecosystems ruined by planning decisions in planning attempts of several scales without a consideration into natural resources makes ecological planning obligatory. Ecological planning approaches are defined as reflections of practices on environmental values within the framework of principles of sensitive area use in the
relationship between human beings and the nature (Langevelde, 1994). Ecology-based planning should take natural and social processes into account (Markhzoumi & Pungetti, 1999). Instead of short-term gains, coastal zones should be used sustainably and consciously with a balance between protection and use and they should be maintained as natural heritages. They have the potential to make contributions to the economy of a country or region for long years. Therefore, it is evident that the main objective in future practices in coastal zones should be using them in a planned way and handing them down to future generations without disruptions in their current ecological values.