The Belgian coast is approximately 65 km long and its terrestrial component is entirely situated in the Flemish Region while the territorial sea is essentially still a federal Belgian competence. The coastal zone itself comprises a sand beach, backed by a discontinous dune belt behind which is a low plain which gradually rises as one moves inland. Human intervention makes it difficult to appreciate the natural erosion of the Flemish coast. Overall, approximately two thirds of the Flemish coast is erosive. Almost all the creation can be attributed to human intervention such as beach nourishment and the construction of long groynes. The present TERRA project aims at a.o. the development of a more dynamic coastal defence policy.
The most important dune- and salt marsh-areas along the Flemish coast are formally designated in terms of nature conservation or scenic interest: state nature reserves, private nature reserves, special protection areas, Ramsar sites, green areas and protected landscapes. The main pressures facing important nature conservation sites are from general urbanisation, recreation, watercaptation, intensification of fishery and agriculture etc.
Action is being taken, however, to overcome these pressures: removing camping-sites from sensitive dune-areas, restricting the further urban development etc. An important effort is now also jointly being made by the federal Belgian and regional Flemish environment administrations, together with the most important NGO's, for the restoration and management of the remaining coastal natural habitats. These efforts are granted support from the European Community as the LIFE Nature project "Integral Coastal Conservation Initiative". The realisation of the goals of both this LIFE-project and the TERRA-project requires a close and sustained collaboration between the administrations competent for nature conservation and for coastal protection.