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Spatiality of Law in Coastal Land Management

Hedayatifard, M. (2022). The spatiality of law in coastal land management: The agency of water and conflict of interests. Case study: The Southern Coast of the Caspian Sea. Journal of Architecture and Urban Planning. https://doi.org/10.30480/aup.2022.3839.1831

Due to their diverse spatial advantages, Coastal lands in the South of the Caspian Sea are always exposed to the pressures caused by competition for residence and activity. Although the legislative process to guide and control the use and utilization of these lands dates back to about 9 decades ago, however, the implementation of these rules seems to have faced different challenges in each period. This research aimed to link the legislative process to relevant natural and social contexts through the lens of legal geography, using the approach of qualitative methodology and document analysis technique. The findings of the research have shown that although the legality of space and determination of coastal territories has been carried out through reliance on the sea-level measure, but, in practice, these laws were nullified because of the use of a static and provisional approach in confronting the natural dynamics of the coast. Also, the lack of recognition of suburban coastal lands by local residents, as well as the conflict of organizational and public interests, have prevented the implementation of the laws for the communization of the sea’s territory. The narratives of this research indicate the importance of the spatiality of coastal land management laws due to the interaction of material (water) and immaterial (power) elements. Law is not just a written regulation on paper. Instead, it intertwines with social life and natural processes. Despite the professional application of modern tools such as laws, bylaws, sea-level surveys, calculating landmarks on coastal lines, preparing maps, bureaucratic inquiries, etc., in the coastal land management system, this study showed that this modern rationality is insufficient to overcome the agency of natural elements. In order to be concrete, the abstract laws and regulations have to deal with the power and interest conflicts on the one hand and the dynamics of unpredictable coastal nature on the other hand. Legislation on coastal lands needs to be based on a dynamic, action-reaction approach instead of a static and pathological one. Considering the risk line of -25m approved because of the long-term period in the Integrated Coastal Zone Management program (2014) can play a significant role in including the agency of water and can provide unity of procedure in decision-making processes. Also, the urban/peri-urban coast binary can be eliminated within the framework of integrated coastal land management, regardless of the official borders. In this context, it is necessary to empower the local communities to support their coastal interests and transfer authority to them to express conflict so that social monitoring of peri-urban coastal lands can prevent their exclusive utilization of the public coast. On the other hand, adjusting the organizational structure for integrated policymaking for the coast can play a significant role in achieving social equity and environmental protection goals in coastal areas. It seems that transition from the mentioned binaries will be possible through adopting a relational approach to planning for coastal areas.