Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Tourism and the Environment: Issues of Concern and Sustainability of Southern Part of the Caspian Sea Coastal Areas

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Tourism and the Environment: Issues of Concern and Sustainability of Southern Part of the Caspian Sea Coastal Areas

Article excerpt

Abstract

Caspian Sea coastlines in Iran have been opened to tourists for 'sun-sea-sand' holiday purpose and have created dynamic ecological sources for many economic activities in the region. However, these coastal areas have been exposed to critical situation of losing their attractiveness due to lack of balance between tourism activities and natural environment operations. Development of sustainable tourism can be a suitable way to solve the problem. Accordingly, having public awareness about existing unfavorable environmental consequences of tourism activities in the region is the first step toward sustainability in the area. As such, the need for further contribution to and reflection of adverse environmental impacts which have been partially derived from tourism activities seems to be considered. Consequently, this paper explores negative environmental impacts of tourism in Caspian Sea Coasts in Iran. The study, subsequently, evaluates the existed regulations and policies regarding the issues in southern part of Caspian Sea coastal areas.

Keywords: Sustainability, Coastal tourism, Environment, Negative environmental impacts, Caspian sea

1. Introduction

Coastal tourism - a common type of nature-based tourism - is considered as the fastest growing industry in the world. This is mostly due to the fact that 20% of the earth's surface contains coastlines and more than 70% of the world's megacities (greater than 50 percent of the world population) are located in coastal areas which benefited from the coastal zones (Ocean Info Pack, 2009). In this regard, offering numerous unique resources which are a mixture of land and sea activities, make the areas more attractive to travelers and this leads to more development in terms of tourism capacities and other supportive infrastructure. Moreover, it has been noted that the growth of tourism in coastal areas is considered as a valuable source of income and employment for nations. It is estimated that coastal tourism contributes to 25% of total export earnings in the Pacific and 35% in the Caribbean islands (Ocean Info Pack, 2009).

Besides, nations who promoted tourism in their communities understand that coastal areas are such fragile and vulnerable environments, thus, the needs for protecting coastal zones has been increased in order to preserve their natural beauty and consequently to ensure them about long-term viability and profitability as a tourism destination. However, uncontrolled and unplanned tourism development and human activities make coastal environments imbalance and lead to several negative environmental consequences. The statistics of Ocean Info Pack (2009) shows that 1/3 of coastal regions run at the high risk of degradation, especially from tourism infrastructure development and pollution. The most threatened regions are Europe with 86% and Asia with 69% of their coastal ecosystems at risk.

As stated by Wong (1993), tourism industry is highly dependent on natural environments. The unique nature of coastal areas leads to various type of tourism expansion in the globe. Indeed, creating a balance between various activities and the coastal environment seems to be a crucial scheme which will be achieved just through establishing management practices which are compatible with sustainable development objectives (Ritchie & Crouch, 2000; Mason, 2003). Certainly, the act of sustainable development is impossible without environmental protection and sustainable utilization of natural resources at micro and macro planning levels (Simon et al., 2004). Besides, considering sustainable development in the process of coastal tourism planning and management is extremely fundamental because long-term survival of tourism industry and its various stakeholders are highly rely on sustainability of coastal areas and built environment (McCool, 1996).

1.1 Sustainability Issues in the Southern Coasts of Caspian Sea

Development of tourism activities along Caspian Sea coastal areas in north part of Iran is not a new phenomenon. …

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