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Interactive Geography


Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments:
A continuing challenge
(Teachers Edition)

HKDSE Interactive Geography
Aristo Educational Press Ltd. 2009
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Unit 1 How does water shape our rivers and coasts?
The work of water creates a variety of fluvial and coastal environments. There are
various physical and human factors that shape the Earths surface.
From source to mouth, a river develops distinct landform features. Most rivers consist
of three courses, namely the upper course, middle course and lower course.
But in Hong Kong, most rivers are short due to compact land profiles and steep slopes.
They typically have only two courses, upper and lower.
Coasts have various landform features formed by the wearing away of rocks or
transporting sediments by the waves to a new location. In Hong Kong, there are more
than 260 outlying islands with magnificent coastlines and coastal features.

Example of river in China-Chang Jiang
Refer to Fig.1.2 in Section 2 p.7
Refer to Fig.1.3 in Section 2 p.8-9

The Chang J iang is the longest and largest river in China. It is 6 300 km long, the third
longest river in the world.
Originates from the Qingzang Gaoyuan.
Flows through 11 provinces and autonomous regions.
A huge drainage network, with a total drainage area of 1.8 million km
, one-fifth of
China's total land area.
The huge discharge produces a large sediment load, amounting to 486 million tons
each year.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Coastal features in the United Kingdom
Refer to Fig.1.4 in Section 2 p.11-12

The coastline of the United Kingdom is very long with a length about 12 500 km.
In the south and west, the coast is rocky with steep cliffs.
The east coast is often flat and low-lying, with beaches and mud-flats.
In the southeast, there are dramatic chalk cliffs.
In the southwest, a long peninsula with rocky outcrops of cliffs, sea arches and stacks
can be found.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Unit 2 The river basin and coast

The water cycle
Water on the Earths surface is returned to the atmosphere through the process of
The water vapour will later condense into liquid or solids that fall to the ground again.
This circular process is known as the water cycle.

The operation of water cycle
Water has three physical states: 1. solid (ice), 2. liquid (water) and 3. gas (water vapour).

Refer to Fig.2.1 in Section 2 p.17

1 Precipitation
When air is saturated with water vapour, water vapour condenses to form droplets. When
water droplets become larger and are too heavy to remain suspended in the air, they fall to
the ground as precipitation.

1. Interception Precipitation falls on vegetation and is caught there.
2. Throughfall &
stem flow
Some water reaches the ground by dripping off leaves
(throughfall) or flowing down the trunk (stem flow).
3. Infiltration Some water seeps into the soil, forming soil storage.
4. Throughflow Some water stored in soil flows along the slope as throughflow.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


5. Percolation Some soil water flows downward as percolation until it reaches
the water table.
6. Ground water
Some ground water remains deep in the ground, while some
flows to the surface and into rivers or oceans.
7. Surface
Water flows on the surface as surface runoff. It includes
channel flow and overland flow.
8. Channel flow Surface runoff following river channels is called channel flow.
9. Overland flow The remaining surface runoff, flowing on the ground surface.

1. Evaporation Water in soil, on the ground or in rivers and sea will absorb heat
energy from the sun. It will change into water vapour and return
to the atmosphere through the process of evaporation.
2. Transpiration Water in vegetation is released into the atmosphere through

A river basin
Refer to Fig.2.2a and b in Section 2 p.19

It is a drainage area of a river and its tributaries. It is also known as the river catchment
The main stream and its tributaries form a drainage network or drainage system.
Adjacent river basins are separated by a watershed.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

A coast
It is the edge of the land where it meets the sea or ocean.
It is the area between the coastline (marks the highest level reached by the sea and
shoreline), the outer margin of the wave-cut terrace.

The coast can be generally divided into several parts:
Refer to Fig.2.6 in Section 2 p.22

1. Shore - the area between the coastline and the low water level.
- It includes two parts backshore and foreshore.
2. Nearshore - the area between the low water level and the shoreline (lowest water
3. Offshore - extends seawards from the lowest water level.

A coast is a system.
Inputs: energy from wind, sediments from the sea
Outputs: sediments deposited on shores, energy dissipated by waves. Sometimes
beautiful coastal features can be regarded as another output.

The coast contributes to the development of an area because it serves the functions of
defense, fishing, recreation and overseas trading.
In Hong Kong, much of our urban land has been modified and reclaimed from coastal
areas. As a result, many parts of the coastline have been straightened.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Unit 3 How do fluvial processes shape the land?

The fluvial processes
Fluvial processes are exogenic processes that occur at or near the Earths surface.
Different fluvial processes create various landscape features within a drainage basin.
River flows lead to fluvial erosion, transportation and deposition that occur in all parts
of a river.
The strength of the fluvial processes is determined by the amount of river energy.

The river energy
Rivers flow from high altitude (higher potential energy) to low altitude (lower potential
energy) under the force of gravity.
Potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, which becomes the energy of a river
that causes erosion and deposition, forming various fluvial landscapes.

Factors determine river energy
River energy is proportional to river discharge, which depends upon the amount of
water and the velocity of river flow.
Discharge refers to a measured volume of water (usually in cubic metres or in cubic
kilometres) flowing past a given point in a specified period of time (usually one
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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

1. Volume of flow
The higher the volume of flow of a river, the larger the rivers energy and the more
intense its fluvial erosion and transportation.
Channel flow determines the volume of flow. Therefore, factors affecting channel
capacity also affect the volume of flow.

a. Precipitation The more precipitation, the
more surface runoff.
Volume of flow of the river will
b. Vegetation cover The more vegetation cover, the
higher the rate of infiltration and
lower surface runoff.
Volume of flow of the river will
c. Evapotranspiration
The higher the rate of
evapotranspiration, the less
the surface runoff.
Volume of flow of the river will

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


d. Permeability of
river basin
The higher the permeability of
bed rock, the higher the rate of
Volume of flow of the river will
e. Slope gradient of
the river basin
The steeper the gradient, the
more the surface runoff. This
permits less infiltration.
Volume of flow of the river will
f. Human activities Urbanisation increases surface runoff as more land surface
is covered by impermeable concrete.
Volume of flow of the river will increase.

2. River velocity
The higher the river velocity, the greater the energy of the river.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Factors affecting river velocity
a. Channel
If the channel gradient is steep, potential energy can be
converted into kinetic energy at a faster rate, so river velocity
will increase.
b. Channel friction
Much of a rivers energy is used to overcome channel friction, which
depends on the following factors:
i. Channel roughness Channel roughness depends on the materials that form
the river banks and bed.
The coarser the materials, the greater the channel
A rough channel causes greater friction, which depletes
river energy as water passes the channel surface.
ii. Channel shape River channels vary greatly in shape which affects
channel friction.
The greater the sinuosity of the channel, the longer the
channel is. The total contact surface between water and
the river banks and bed increases, thus friction
iii. Wetted perimeter
of the channel
River channels also vary in their cross sectional profile.
This determines the contact surface area between water
and the channel, which is known as wetted perimeter.
In general, the larger the wetted perimeter, the greater
the channel friction.

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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Fluvial erosion
Fluvial erosion is the breaking down of rocks and minerals along the river bed and
When river energy increases, or when there is a decrease in energy loss, more energy
is available to carry out erosion.
Flowing water removes loose materials from the river source, the river bed and river
banks. The transported loads will also cause abrasion, by which the sides and bed of
the river channel are eroded.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Direction of fluvial erosion
Fluvial erosion takes place in three different directions.

Headward erosion Vertical erosion Lateral erosion
Place of
Source of river Upper course Middle and lower
Effect on river
Lengthen the valley Deepen the valley Widen the valley
Processes At the river source,
ground water flows out
from springs and
erodes the materials in
an upstream direction,
gradually increasing
the length of the river
At slopes with a steep
gradient, erosion takes
place in a downward
direction, thus
deepening the valley,
which becomes more
narrowly V-shaped.
The valley sides
become steeper.
Where the gradient is
more gentle in the
middle and lower
courses, vertical
erosion is reduced.
Water flows laterally
and the sides of the
channel are eroded.
The valley is widened
and becomes broadly

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Types of fluvial erosion
Refer to Fig.3.4 in Section 2 p.33

1. Hydraulic action
Running water produces a great force which erodes the bed and walls of a river
This force also widens cracks and joints in rocks, and removes loose materials.

2. Solution/Corrosion
Water dissolves and removes soluble minerals in rocks. An example of such a mineral
is calcite in limestone.
As minerals are removed, the rocks are weakened and are more easily eroded by
other erosive processes.

3. Abrasion/Corrasion
The load of rock fragments carried by the river scrapes against the bottom and sides of
the river channel.
Eddies often occur in a rough channel of pebbles and boulders. These eddies twist
rock fragments which drill into the river bed, carving out hollows. Such hollows are
called potholes.
Both abrasion and hydraulic action are intense beneath a waterfall. The river bed is
eroded and deepened, forming a depression or plunge pool.

4. Attrition
Rock fragments in the load carried by the river scrapes against one another.
The rock fragments are then broken down into smaller and more rounded pieces.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Fluvial transportation
Fluvial transportation is the movement of loads downstream.
A river carries eroded materials to its lower course for deposition, so that the inputs of
the whole system can be transformed to outputs. Land is re-shaped throughout the
entire course of the river.

The load of a river
The load of a river refers to materials it carries. These are mainly weathered materials
in the drainage basin, such as rock fragments, sand and clay.
Some are materials produced by fluvial erosion and others come from weathering of
river banks. The larger the load, the greater the amount of energy needed to transport

Types of load
There are three different types of river load, classified according to the particle size and
mode of transportation.
1. Bed load consists of large rock fragments transported on the river bed by traction or
2. Suspended load is made up of tiny silt and clay particles transported in suspension.
3. Dissolved load consists of ions of minerals dissolved in the water.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Major fluvial transportation processes
Refer to Fig.3.5 in Section 2 p.35

Mode Characteristics of
How does it take place?
Solution Icons of different
minerals (dissolved
In flowing water Icons are dissolved in the water
Suspension Tiny silt and clay
(suspended load)
In flowing water Silt and clay particles are so
small that they remain
suspended in water
Saltation Small rock fragments
(bed load)
River bed and
flowing water
Rock fragments undergo
saltation when they regain
energy bouncing on the river
Traction Large rock fragments
(bed load)
River bed The fragments are so large that
they can only be dragged by
water along the river bed

Fluvial deposition
Fluvial deposition is the settling of materials of a river.
It takes place when a river loses its energy and its load becomes too heavy for it to
carry, i.e. the amount of load exceeds the rivers carrying capacity.
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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Process of fluvial deposition
When velocity or discharge decreases, river energy is gradually reduced. Smaller
particles remain suspended in the water until there is a further reduction of river
Therefore, along the course of a river, the large particles are deposited first. Smaller
ones are carried further downstream before they are deposited.
As deposition takes place in sequence according to particle size, it occurs at different
times and locations. This process is called sorting.
Sediments are deposited on a sea, river or lakes bed in sequence. Layers of sediment
are formed. This is called stratification.
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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

The characteristics of the different courses of a river
Upper course Middle course Lower course
Stream order Low Medium High
Slope gradient Steep Medium Gentle
Size of load Large Medium Small
Shape of load Angular Mixed Rounded
Amount of load Small Medium Large
Cross section of

Shape of valley Deep, narrow
Wider V-shaped Flat and broad
Channel shape Relatively straight,
sometimes bends
along interlocking
winding course along
the valley
meander, winding
course on the
(mainly boulders)
Medium Smooth (mainly fine
sand and silt)
Wetted perimeter Short Medium Long
Average velocity Slow Medium Fast
Discharge Small Medium Large
River energy Small Medium Large
Main fluvial
More headward and
vertical erosion than
lateral erosion
More transportation
and lateral erosion
than vertical erosion
Dominantly deposition,
transportation and
lateral erosion
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

The velocity, discharge and channel shape change downstream and the factors
influencing these changes
Characteristics Reason
River bed and banks become increasingly smooth towards the
lower course as the materials are finer. Less energy is used for
overcoming friction, thus allowing the river to flow faster.
As discharge increases downstream, so does the velocity.
The number of tributaries increases from the source. Thus the
discharge increases as flow proceeds towards the main stream.
River efficiency is determined by velocity and friction.
In the upper course, the channel tends to be rough in shape with
protruding rocks. The loads carried are angular and consist of
large boulders and rocks. All these contribute to the increase in
channel roughness, leading to greater friction and lower efficiency
in the upper course.
When moving downstream, the channel becomes wider and the
loads become smaller, leading to a reduction in friction, so
efficiency increases.
Valley shape
In the upper course, vertical erosion is greater than lateral erosion,
forming a deeply cut, narrow and steep, V-shaped valley.
Lateral erosion becomes more dominant in the middle course. The
valley is gradually widened.
In the lower course, there is simultaneous lateral erosion and
deposition. The meander keeps changing course, thus further
widening the valley. The slope is gentle.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Landform features in the upper course of a river

1. Waterfalls and rapids
Refer to Fig.3.8 in Section 2 p.44

When a river flows over a very steep portion of its channel with a sudden increase in
velocity, it is called a waterfall.
A waterfall usually occurs when a layer of resistant hard rock rises vertically across the
river bed, dips upstream or lies horizontally. The softer rock lying beneath is more
rapidly eroded by the river, resulting in a vertical drop.

of a
Condition Vertical, resistant rock
layers such as porphyry
dykes are exposed after
overlying rock is eroded.
The surrounding, less
resistant granite is
eroded by the river,
forming a waterfall.

The more resistant layer
of rock such as
conglomerate lying
across the river course
dips upstream, while the
underlying volcanic rock
is less resistant and
subject to erosion,
forming a waterfall.
At the top lies a layer of
hard rock, such as
dolomite, with less
resistant rock, such as
shale or sandstone lying
underneath it. The water
tumbles over the high
cliff into the plunge pool
Example Waterfall on River Silver
near Silver Mine Bay
Brides Pool Falls Niagara Falls, border of
the USA and Canada
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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Refer to Fig.3.10 in Section 2 p.45

Faulting may also cause a waterfall or
rapid to form. Faulting can cause the
block of crust on the downstream side
to subside.

The displacement results in a sudden
vertical drop. The channel gradient
becomes much steeper, forming a
waterfall or rapid.

Refer to Fig.3.12 in Section 2 p.46

Rapids occur where the flow of the river is very swift and turbulence develops as a
result of a sudden increase in steepness of the river channel.
A river plunging over a waterfall erodes the river bed below by hydraulic action while its
load erodes by abrasion.
The river bed below the waterfall is deepened, forming a plunge pool, such as the
Brides Pool and Mirror Pool in Hong Kong.
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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


2. Gorges
a. Gorge formed by waterfall retreat
Refer to Fig.3.13 in Section 2 p.46

The retreat of a waterfall leads to the formation of a gorge.
The resistant rock underneath the waterfall is gradually undercut by erosion, so pieces
of rock break free and fall away.
The waterfall then retreats upstream and a gorge may develop on the downstream side
of the waterfall.

Refer to Fig.3.14a and b in Section 2 p.47

Example: Niagara Falls at the border of the USA and Canada has retreated upstream
for 11.4 km because the river bed shale has been constantly eroded by River Niagara.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

b. Gorge formed by downcutting
Refer to Fig.3.15 in Section 2 p.47

During a tectonic uplift of landmass, or under intense vertical erosion caused by an
abrupt increase in river discharge, a gorge is developed.
Example: The Chang J iang Three Gorges in China and the Grand Canyon in the USA
are famous examples of this kind of gorge.

Landform features in the middle course of a river
1. Bluffs and slip off slopes
Refer to Fig.3.19 and 3.20 in Section 2 p.50

In the middle course, lateral erosion is dominant. Swing of waterflow, rugged river bed
and the nature of the loads contribute to the development of a winding river course,
which widens the valley.
Lateral erosion cuts into the concave bank (outer bank) of a river bend, forming steep
slopes bordering the rivers. Such steep slopes are known as bluffs.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

The water flow at the convex bank (inner bank) of a river bend is slower. Deposition
instead of lateral erosion takes place as river energy falls. Sediments carried by the
river are gradually dropped, and a gentle slope is formed as a slip off slope.

2. Meanders
Refer to Fig.3.19 and 3.20 in Section 2 p.50

In its middle course, a river begins to flow in a winding course and its valley widens.
Water undercuts the concave (outer) banks and slow-flowing water deposits sediments
on the convex (inner) banks. These curves or bends of a river are called meanders.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Landform features in the lower course of a river
When a river enters its lower course, its winding course forms meanders.
Sand bars in the channel lead to the formation of braids.
Sediments are also deposited at the river mouth to form a delta.

1. Meanders
The flat and smooth river bed in the lower course favours lateral erosion. This leads to
further winding of the river channel and meanders are formed.
Meanders in the lower course are generally more maturely formed than those in the
middle course.

2. Oxbow lakes
Refer to Fig.3.24 in Section 2 p.53

As erosion is intense along the concave bank (outer bank) of the meander, the bank
gradually retreats.
Deposition along the convex bank (inner bank) causes the bank to extend outwards.
The bend becomes more acute.
When two adjacent concave banks continue to be undercut, only a narrow neck of
meander is left between them. The neck is eventually cut through by further lateral
erosion to form a cut-off.
As the water flows along the new straight channel, the abandoned meander will be
closed off by deposition and separated from the main channel. This cutoff meander
has a crescent shape and is usually filled with water. It is called an oxbow lake.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


The neck of a meander
separates two concave
banks which are being
The neck is cut through, forming
a cut-off.
Deposition seals the ends
of the cut-off, forming an
oxbow lake.

3. Floodplains
Refer to Fig.3.25 in Section 2 p.53

Erosion of the concave bank (outer bank) and deposition on the convex bank (inner
bank) cause a meander to expand. Flat land is thus developed in the lower river
Due to its gentle gradient, high discharge and shallow river bed, the river easily
overflows its banks during flooding, and deposits large amounts of sediment on the
valley floor. An extensive, flat plain known as a floodplain is thus formed.
Examples: Kam Tin and Yuen Long floodplain.
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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


4. Levees
Refer to Fig.3.26 in Section 2 p.54

During a flood, large amounts of sediment are carried onto the floodplain by
The sediments are deposited when the river slows and loses its energy after the flood.
Coarse and heavy materials are first deposited on the channel banks, while fine
particles and silt are carried further onto the floodplain before being deposited.
Repeated flooding causes a raised bank which forms levees. They often flank the river
as far as the river mouth.

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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


5. Braided stream
The river channel in the lower course of a river is wider.
Deposition of a large number of loads will form sandbars within the channel. These
sandbars divide the river into many smaller channels which rejoin downstream to form
braided stream.

6. Deltas
Refer to Fig.3.28 in Section 2 p.55

Sediments accumulate at the shallow river mouth. Due to weak currents in the area,
the deposition rate is faster than the natural removal rate.
Gradually sediments build up from the coarsest to the finest in a seaward direction to
form a flat, gentle triangular feature known as a delta.
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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Types of delta
Refer to Table 3.8 in Section 2 p.55-56

Types of delta Formation process Example
Estuarine delta Most of the sediments settle around the main
river and distributaries.
As the shallow sea floor at the river mouth
receives added deposition, the delta extends
along two sides of the mouth.
Chang J iang
Arcuate delta Sediments deposit at the river mouth, forming
sand bars.
Numerous distributaries develop and the delta is
triangular in shape.
Nile River
Birds foot delta The delta extends into the sea with an irregular
shape which looks like a birds foot.
The distributaries carry sediments and deposit
them over a wide area along the courses of the
River Delta
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Unit 4 How do coastal processes shape the land?

Wave generation
Refer to Fig 4.1 in Section 2 p.64

Waves get energy and motion from wind, and they are generated when wind blows
over the sea surface.
Wind action produces tiny ripples in the water. These ripples combine and increase in
size to form waves.
The wind then causes the water particles to rotate in a vertical, circular orbit, moving
the waves forward in the direction of the wind.

Parts of a wave
Refer to Fig 4.2 in Section 2 p.65

A wave crest is the curved top or ridge of a moving wave.
A wave trough is the lowest part of the moving wave.
Wave height is the distance between the trough and the crest.
Wave length is the distance between two consecutive crests or troughs.

Characteristics of wave generation
1. Fetch
Refer to Fig 4.3 in Section 2 p.65

Fetch is the maximum distance in one direction across an open body of water that wind
can blow, or simply, the maximum distance a wave can travel.
The longer the fetch, the larger the wave.
So areas with longest fetch potentially receive the highest energy waves.
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Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

For example, Cornish Coast in the southwestern part of England receives maximum
fetch because it is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean.

2. Energy
The size and energy of waves are affected by the following four factors:
a. How long the wind has been blowingThe longer the time, the stronger the wave
b. The strength of the windThe stronger the wind, the stronger the waves
c. The fetchThe longer the fetch, the stronger the waves
d. Wave heightThe higher the wave, the greater the wave energy

Refer to the case of Hong Kong coastal areas in Section 2 p.66

Constructive waves and destructives waves
Refer to Fig 4.6 in Section 2 p.67

As a wave approaches the coast and comes in contact with the sea bed, its bottom part
is held back by frictional drag.
This decreases the velocity and length of the wave, while the height and steepness of
the wave increase. Then, the top of the wave is thrown forward, resulting in a breaker.
When a wave breaks, its energy is released. Water is washed up the beach. Such a
water movement is called swash. After that the water drains back down the beach as

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


Constructive wave Destructive wave
Wave height Lower Higher
Wave length Longer Shorter
Wave size Smaller Bigger
Swash Stronger Weaker
Backwash Weaker Stronger
between swash
and backwash
Swash >Backwash Backwash >Swash
Wave frequency Lower, 6-8 waves per minute Higer, 12-14 waves per minute
Offshore gradient Gentler Steeper
Coastal process Deposition Erosion
Cross section

Erosion processes along coasts
Refer to Fig 4.8 in Section 2 p.70

1. Hydraulic action
Sea cliffs and rocks contain lines of weakness such as joints or cracks.
When water is thrown against these lines of weakness, air may be trapped or
compressed within, leading to an increase in pressure.
When the wave retreats, the compressed air rushes out of the gap.
The sea cliffs and the rocks will be weakened or cracked as this process is repeated.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

2. Abrasion/corrasion
Waves carry materials such as sand, shingles, pebbles and boulders.
These materials scrape against the bases of sea cliffs through wave action, gradually
wearing them away.

3. Attrition
This is the process by which waves drive eroded rocks and pebbles into each other,
causing them to break into smaller sizes and become more rounded in shape.

4. Solution/corrosion
Solution is the process of dissolving chemical loads. Sea water contains chemicals like
carbonic acid, which can dissolve limestone and chalk.
Evaporation of sea water leaves behind salt crystals, which may cause the
disintegration of rocks.

Transportation processes along coasts
Refer to Fig 4.9 in Section 2 p.71

Along the coast, there are five major transportation processes.
1. Traction large boulders and materials that are rolled along the sea floor by waves.
2. Saltation slightly lighter pebbles and materials are bounced along the sea floor by
3. Suspension small materials such as sand and silt are carried by moving water.
4. Solution fine materials such as calcium carbonate and salts are dissolved and carried
by the water.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

5. Longshore drift Refer to Fig 4.10 in Section 2 p.72
Longshore drift is a transportation process that moves rock particles eroded from one
part of a coastline to a place of deposition elsewhere.
Wind causes waves to break on the beach at an angle. The swash carries materials up
the beach at an oblique angle, but the backwash carries materials down the beach at a
right angle under the force of gravity.
The drift moves materials and sand along the beach downward in a zig-zag pattern
parallel to the shore along the sea floor. This movement is known as beach drift.
Waves continuously approach the shore at an angle. When a wave meets the shore
and breaks, another wave is right behind it. This prevents the broken wave from
flowing backward and causes a slight raise in the water level.
A longshore current flowing parallel to the shore is formed. Both water and sediments
are moving along with it.
Longshore drift =Beach drift +Longshore current

Deposition processes along the coasts
When waves lose their energy, they will drop the materials they are carrying such as
sand, rock particles and pebbles. This process is called deposition.
It occurs when swash is stronger than backwash.
Deposition takes place in sheltered areas with low-energy waves or where rapid
coastal erosion nearby along the coast provides an abundant supply of materials.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Factors affecting coastal processes change over space
Coastal erosion, transportation and deposition processes change over space due to
different coastal energy that is affected by atmospheric, marine and geological factors.

2.1 Atmospheric factors
1. Strength of wind (velocity)
Wind velocity affects the energy of waves.
With a higher wind velocity, wave energy is stronger and is capable of overcoming
friction, contributing to a higher rate of erosion and transportation.
On the contrary, a lower wind velocity means waves have less energy to carry their
loads, thus deposition will occur.

2. Duration of wind
The longer distance the wind blows (fetch), the more time that is available for waves to
gather energy from the wind.
Stronger wave energy means the rate of erosion is higher. A shorter fetch means less
wave energy, which favours deposition.

2.2 Marine factors
Refer to Fig 4.12 a and b in Section 2 p.73

1. Depth of the sea
Deep water provides a favourable condition for coastal erosion and transportation

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

There is more wave energy and less friction in deep water, so the rate of erosion will
However, when waves enter an area of shallow water, they begin to break offshore.
As waves lose their energy, the rate of deposition will increase.

2. Gradient of offshore slope
Refer to Fig 4.13 a and b in Section 2 p.74

A steep offshore slope such as the foot of a sea cliff contributes to a high rate of coastal
When a wave strikes a steep offshore slope, most energy is released and causes
A gentle offshore slope can increase the rate of deposition.
Wave velocity and energy are reduced when entering a gentle offshore slope, and
waves will release and deposit their loads.

3. Type of wave
Refer to Fig 4.14 a and b in Section 2 p.74

Constructive waves favour the deposition of loads. When swash is greater than
backwash, sediments are washed onto the coast and the rate of deposition increases.
Destructive waves increase the rate of erosion. When backwash is greater than swash,
waves can remove materials from the coasts.

4. Longshore current
Longshore current is the current of water flowing parallel to the shore.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

The stronger the longshore current, the greater the rate of sediment transportation.
Sediment loads resulting from erosion can thus be easily transported. This will expose
the coast to further erosion.
The weaker the longshore current, the less efficiently sediment loads can be
transported. This protects the coast against further erosion.

5. Tidal range
Refer to Fig 4.15 a and b in Section 2 p.75

Tidal range is the difference in height between a high and a low tide in an area.
The larger the tidal range, the stronger the tidal current which can remove sediment
loads effectively, which exposes the coast to further erosion.
A weak tidal current can protect the coast against erosion because it is less efficient in
removing sediment loads.

2.3 Geological factors
1. Type and structure of rock
Refer to the case in Section 2 p.76

The type, structure and dip of rocks can affect their resistance to coastal erosion.
Less resistant rocks usually possess lines of weaknesses or are composed of soluble
materials, which are more prone to erosion.
Rocks of different resistance overlie one another, increasing the susceptibility to
Rock dipping upward from the sea forms the gentlest sea cliffs but horizontal or vertical
dip forms the steepest sea cliffs.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

2. Amount of load
Active weathering and erosion can produce excessive amounts of sediments. They are
brought by rivers or longshore drift to the coastal area.
When a load becomes too heavy for waves to transport, deposition takes place.
Deposited sediments can protect against coastal erosion by dissipating and absorbing
wave energy.
The more the amount of deposited beach materials, the deeper the beach extends
inland, hence offering more protection for coastal features like sea cliffs.

3. Size of load
Large loads require strong waves for transportation. If the average size of loads is
smaller, the rate of transportation will be higher.
If the size is large, the loads can be transported only by traction and saltation in the
offshore region, while smaller loads can be carried closer to the backshore by
suspension and solution.

2.4 Other factors
1. Coastal obstacles
Coastal landscape features and man-made structures along the coast affect coastal
erosion and transportation processes.
Obstacles like mangroves and coral reefs in a coastal area can shield it from erosion
and transportation processes.
Coastal management strategies such as building groynes and other artificial wave
breakers may slow down the movement of sediments by longshore drift, so that orderly
deposition occurs.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

2. Location of coast
Erosion tends to concentrate on exposed coastal locations, for instance around
If the coast is located in a sheltered area or a bay, wave energy will be less and this
increases the rate of deposition.

Features of coastal erosion
Refer to Fig 4.32 and Fig 4.33 in Section 2 p.83

1. Sea cliff and wave-cut platform
Refer to Fig 4.20 in Section 2 p.79

A sea cliff is a high steep rock face and a wave-cut platform is a gently sloping rock
surface extending from the base of the sea cliff.
A wave-cut platform is covered by water at high tide and exposed at low tide.

Destructive waves cut out a notch
just above low tide level through
hydraulic action and abrasion.

The base of the notch is undercut
after prolonged wave erosion.
The upper part of the notch
eventually collapses by weathering
and mass wasting.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


Waves break the fallen debris and
carry it away. A steep sea cliff is

Further undercutting causes the
sea cliff to retreat and a platform is
left. As the wave-cut platform
widens, the sea covering it
becomes shallower.
The cliff will be attacked less
frequently and less vigorously by

Refer to Fig 4.21 and Fig 4.22 in Section 2 p.80

Example: The steepest sea cliffs- Po Pin Chau near High Island at Sai Kung. They are
formed by resistant rhyolite.
Cliffs formed by less resistant granite are typically much less steep. As the tidal range
is small and coasts are often steep, wave-cut platforms in Hong Kong are typically not
wide. As long fetch can be found on east-facing coasts, most of the platforms are
formed there.

2. Sea cave
Refer to Fig 4.24 a and b in Section 2 p.80

A sea cave is a passage or tunnel formed by waves on a coast.
When waves attack a sea cliff, they first erode rocks with lines of weakness such as
joints, cracks and bedding planes, and areas of weakness composed of less resistant
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Attrition and solution erode rock layers. Hydraulic action and abrasion caused by
waves also erode weak areas between high and low tide levels.
The sea cliff is thus opened up and sea caves are formed.

3. Geo
Refer to Fig 4.25 a and b in Section 2 p.81

The waves gradually wear away the interior of the sea cave and enlarges it.
Later mass wasting of the roof leads to its collapse due to a lack of support.
The sea cave is exposed and the narrow, steep-sided inlet is called a geo.

4. Sea arch and stack
Refer to Fig 4.27 and Fig4.28 in Section 2 p.81-82

Since wave energy is concentrated on a headland, both sides of the headland are
subjected to wave erosion.
When a line of weakness lies across a headland, sea caves will develop on both sides
of the headland. A cave may cut through a narrow headland, or back-to-back caves
may eventually meet, forming a tunnel through the headland.
Further erosion will widen the tunnel, eventually leaving only a rock bridge above it,
which is called a sea arch.
When the roof of the arch collapses under denudation, leaving part of the headland
isolated in the sea, a stack is formed.
It may also be formed when two back-to-back geos join together. Both arches and
stacks are features which will eventually disappear under continued wave erosion.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Features of coastal deposition
Refer to Fig 4.41 in Section 2 p.87

When wave energy decreases, sediments are deposited instead of transported.
Examples of deposition featuresbeach, spit, bar and tombolo

1. Beach
Refer to Fig 4.34 in Section 2 p.84

A beach is a strip of land bordering the sea, normally consists of boulders, pebbles or
It lies between high and low tides, accumulating sediments above and below the

Refer to Fig 4.35 in Section 2 p.84

When sediments are deposited to form a beach, the coarsest materials are usually
pushed by swash and deposited near the top of the beach, while the fine materials are
dragged by backwash and deposited on the seaward side.
A beach also shows differences according to different climatic conditions. Typhoon and
strong backwash of storm waves can remove large amounts of sediments from the
beach, while mild winds push the sediments back onto the beach, forming a longer and
wider beach.
Example: Sandy beach at Shek O

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

2. Offshore bar
Refer to Fig 4.36a, b and c in Section 2 p.85

Along a gently sloping beach, waves break at or near the shoreline as the water is
The waves pile up sediments and a narrow ridge-like feature called an offshore bar is
It is parallel to the coast and both ends are not attached to the land.
Formation processes of an offshore bar:

3. Spit
Refer to Fig 4.37 in Section 2 p.85

A spit is a long, narrow accumulation of sand with one end linked to the mainland and
the other projected into the sea or across an estuary.
It is formed by a combination of longshore drift, tides, river or ocean currents, and a
bend of the coastline.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

When a longshore drift travels along a coast, the water becomes shallow and calm.
Wave energy decreases, the drift cannot be maintained and materials being
transported are deposited.
A curved sand spit that points in the direction of the longshore drift is then formed.
Example: Pui O of Lantau Island
Formation processes of a spit:

Beach material is
transported along the coast
by longshore drift.
Sediments accumulate and
extend into the sea. A spit is
A hooked end (recurved
spit) will develop if the
wind blows from the other

4. Bay-bar
Refer to Fig 4.38 in Section 2 p.86

If longshore drift deposits sediments in a bay, a bay-bar may be formed by linking the
ends of two headlands.
A bay-bar is a long ridge of sand or pebbles running parallel to the coastline across a
bay, which straightens coastlines and traps water in a lagoon on the landward side.
Formation processes of a bay-bar:
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


A spit extends from the end
of headland
Two spits will eventually join A bay-bar is formed parallel to
the coastline

5. Tombolo
Refer to Fig 4.39 in Section 2 p.86

A tombolo is formed when a spit or bar is extended between an offshore island and the
mainland, or between two islands.
Sediments brought by longshore drift from each direction are deposited, thus the
original separated landmasses eventually connected by the extension of the spit or bar,
and a narrow piece of land named a tombolo is formed.
Example: the tombolo at Cheung Chau.
Formation processes of a tombolo:

Two seperate islands existed.
Longshore drifts brought
sediments to the areas.
Continuous longshore drifts
caused spits to grow from
each of the islands.
The spits have joined
together to form a

Refer to the case of coastal features in Holderness, England in Section 2 p.90-91
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Unit 5 How do human activities influence and alter river and
coastal environments?

Human activities and their consequences for river and coastal

1.1 Reclamation
Reclamation is the usual method of acquiring land by dumping materials into the sea to
raise the level of the sea bed or areas of land that were once below the sea until they
become dry land.
Reclamation is commonly practised in Hong Kong as there is little flat land.
More than 10% of Hong Kong developed land area is reclaimed from the sea,
especially the area along both sides of Victoria Harbour, which has provided valuable
flat land for economic development.
Refer to the case in Section 2 p.96

Reclamation can change the ground water table and cause upward flow of ground
It also reduces the water-holding capacity of a lake by reducing its size.
All these may lead to more frequent flooding.
Dumping of pebbles and sand into water bodies and intensive development of the
reclaimed site may pollute the water in nearby areas.
Water also becomes more turbid and affects photosynthesis of water plants.
Narrowing of the harbour and water courses results in higher waves and stronger
currents, which threaten marine safety for navigation and other water activities.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

The natural coastline, river banks and river bed are altered by reclamation that leads to
the removal of wildlife habitats.
Local biodiversity, feeding grounds of various organisms and the original ecosystem
cannot be maintained.

1.2 Dredging
Dredging is the process of removing sediment and accumulated debris from water
bodies and placing the materials in particular locations.
Dredging is practised to keep harbours and rivers from silting up or as a method of
collecting sand for reclamation.
It is an important process used to maintain ports, fairways, typhoon shelters, drainage
and flood protection schemes.
Refer to the case in Section 2 p.97

Dredging disturbs the natural sediment transport pattern of water currents of rivers and
sea directly.
It also pollutes the water bodies by stirring up highly contaminated mud at the bottom
of the harbour, suffocating and burying aquatic life.
Removal of sediments from the sea bed and river bed destroys habitats. For example,
large areas of coral reefs and sea grasses are damaged due to dredging.
Food supplies for animals higher up the food chain such as fish and dolphins will be
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

1.3 Destabilisation and erosion
1. Coastal mining
Coastal mining is the process of extracting sand or minerals from the sea bed and
It includes the exploitation of rare minerals and metals like diamonds and titanium
found in coastal waters.
Mining of sand and gravel is concentrated in estuaries, beaches, dunes and
near-shore areas. Large-scale mining of sand and gravel is also conducted in offshore
areas and in river beds

2. Urban development
River and coastal regions provide good accessibility and beautiful scenery which
attract many people to live there.
Urban development of cities and towns along rivers and coasts always involves
large-scale infrastructural projects for commercial, industrial and residential facilities.

3. Deforestation
Refer to the case in Section 2 p.99

Deforestation refers to large-scale removal of forests or vegetation. It is commonly
practised along rivers and coastal areas.
The spread of agriculture, firewood collection, and unregulated timber logging activities
are the principal causes of deforestation.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Coastal mining, urban development and deforestation remove the vegetation and
expose the soil to severe erosion, which will cause the silting up of rivers and reduce
their natural flood storage.
Impervious areas in cities such as roads and roofs lower infiltration and increase the
risk of flooding.
Mining activities and urban development also cause pollution and bring serious
damage to the ecosystem. Heavy metal and toxic substances from mining, sewage
from industries and households pollutes groundwater and surface runoff.
Nutritive pollutants stimulate the growth of algae. Together with suspended particles in
the water, they will cover filter-feeding corals and hinder their ability to survive.

1.4 Agriculture
1. Farming
The relatively flat land on either side of a river provides fertile soil for agricultural
activities. Annual floods deposit a fresh layer of alluvium that rejuvenates the soil of the
floodplain, saving the costs of fertilisers.
Farmers can take advantage of the nearby river by drawing water from the river for
They can also have access to cheap water transportation for delivering the crops to
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

2. Aquaculture
Aquaculture is the cultivation of aquatic organisms such as fish, shellfish, algae and
other aquatic plants in ponds near or along rivers and coasts.
This practice helps to form a buffer zone to protect the coast from life-threatening
erosion and silting problems.

Clearing land for farming will leave the land barren and result in soil erosion.
Chemical fertilisers from agriculture may stimulate the growth of algae and other
marine organisms. When they die and decompose, they will consume a lot of oxygen
and make a lake or river eutrophic. Aquatic plants and fish may die because of a lack
of oxygen.
Pesticides and other toxic substances can also enter and accumulate throughout local
food chains, and may eventually affect human health.
For example, excess nitrates in drinking water may lead to blue baby syndrome and
stomach cancer.

1.5 Recreation
Rivers and coasts are areas many people visit to enjoy their vacations. They take
advantage of the multitude of recreational activities available there, from swimming or
fishing to simply lying on the beach to enjoy sunbathing.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Undesirable visitors behaviour, however, could cause direct degradation of
The development of recreational facilities along the coast is the prime contributor to
coastal erosion and sedimentation. It involves sand mining, beach and sand dune
erosion, soil erosion and extensive paving of ground surfaces.
Recreation also contributes to sewage and solid wastes, which pollute rivers, seas and

1.6 Power generation
1. Hydro-electric power (HEP)
Refer to the case in Section 2 p.102

Hydro-electric power requires a dam and reservoir on a large river that has a dramatic
drop in elevation.
The falling water spins turbines that generate electricity. Hydro-electric power is a
clean, inexpensive and renewable power resource.

2. Tidal power
Refer to Fig 5.14a and b in Section 2 p.102

Tidal power is also a renewable power resource.
It involves the building of a dam across a river mouth or inlet.
The incoming and outgoing tides of the sea drive the air turbines to generate electricity.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

3. Nuclear power
Many nuclear power stations are located along rivers and coastal areas. These
locations can provide an adequate supply of cooling water for the reactors.

Power generation requires large-scale construction projects like the building of dams,
reservoirs and power plants, resulting in many problems such as erosion and mass
Soil erosion increases the amount of sediments which silt up the storage capacity of
reservoirs and increase the risk of flooding.
The reservoir for HEP generation, for example, changes climatic conditions in the
surrounding area. The temperature in the region will drop, which may affect the aquatic
environment and wildlife habitats.
Thermal pollution caused by the discharge of hot water from the power plant will lead
to the bleaching of coral reefs and killing of marine organisms.

The management of river and coastal systems
Rivers and coastal shorelines are dynamic.
Humans have significantly modified rivers and coasts by different management
strategies such as constructing dykes and groynes, beach nourishment and land use
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Hard engineering strategies
Hard engineering are traditional engineering responses which aim at resisting the
energy of waves and tides.
These projects involve the construction of artificial structures that can stop wave
energy reaching the shore, or absorb and reflect the energy at the shore.

1. Dykes
A dyke, an artificial wall built along the edge of a water body onto an adjacent lowland,
can solve the problem of flooding.
The Netherlands has been successful with the dyke system.
With careful design and management of the dyke system, the flood problem in the
Netherlands has been turned into an economic opportunity, as shown by a prosperous
development of market gardening which requires a high input of irrigation water.

2. Groynes
Refer to Fig 5.21 in Section 2 p.108

A groyne is one of the most common methods of countering lateral erosion in an outer
Structures of stone, timber, concrete and steel extend from the river bank into the water
so that high velocity currents are diverted away from the banks to prevent or minimise
Along many coasts, longshore drift causes the beach to thin out in places where
erosion of land behind the beach becomes a problem.
Groynes are built at right angles to the coastline to reduce the power of the longshore
drift and trap sediments, so that beaches will not be eroded.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Groynes are commonly constructed along the coasts in the United Kingdom because
they are simple to build. The building costs are comparatively inexpensive and
maintenance costs decrease with time. They are also efficient in trapping sediments.
Groynes have a significant impact on the landscape as they destroy the beautiful
coastal scenery and create barriers to the recreational use of the beach.
Local scourings around groynes and downdrift erosion may happen if beaches are not

3. Other examples of hard engineering strategies
Refer to Table 5.2 in Section 2 p.109

Sea wall
Sea walls are placed parallel to the shore, often along the base of a
They can be vertical and have a curved top which breaks up the
energy of the waves and prevents water from going over the top of
the wall during heavy storms.
A gabion is a metal cage filled with rocks.
They are stacked to form a simple wall or placed at the foot of an
eroding cliff.
They are relatively cheap, easy to use and are especially quick to
Breakwaters are built parallel or at an angle to the coastline as an
obstacle to break the waves further onshore.
They are usually made of concrete, blocks of stone and rubber tyres.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


Revetments are placed parallel to the coastline.
They are permeable and let water pass through, protecting the cliff
from wave erosion.
Timber slats, concrete or stones are the major materials.
Riprap / rock
Riprap are large boulders piled up along the shoreline or placed at
the foot of the cliff to form a protective wall.
Riprap dissipates wave energy and traps sediments. So energy of
the waves is dispersed and erosion is reduced.
Dam and
Dams and reservoirs are constructed along rivers to limit flooding
and protect existing land uses.
A dam can help regulate water flow as well.

Refer to the case of coastal hard engineering used in Happisburgh in Section 2 p.115

Soft engineering strategies
Since hard engineering often causes problems, soft engineering has become more
popular. Soft engineering tries to work with natural processes to reduce, rather than
prevent erosion.
These techniques involve promoting natural systems such as beaches to protect the
They are usually less expensive to construct and maintain than hard engineering
techniques and are more self-sustaining.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

1. Beach nourishment
Beach nourishment is the process of placing sand that has been removed by
longshore drift or erosion in order to provide a buffer against waves.
Sand is either brought in from elsewhere, or transported back along a beach, usually
once a year.
This strategy is widely adopted because it restores and improves the recreational
value of the beach.
When compared with other hard strategies, beach nourishment does not leave debris
on the beach if erosion continues and no costly construction is involved.
The beach turns into a construction zone during its nourishment and the coastal
ecology of the beach will be damaged. A variety of plants, insects and other animals
become threatened or endangered.
Beach nourishment does not stop erosion and periodic nourishment is needed, which
is known as beach renourishment.
In fact, beach nourishment is an inefficient management option because of its
uncertain longevity and continuing maintenance cost.

2. Land use zoning
Land use zoning aims to regulate land use for meeting specified intentions for
individual areas. It is used as a conservation tool to conserve the natural environment
and cultural heritage.
It is particularly effective in preventing the occurrence of coastal problems in
undeveloped and less populated coastal areas.
Land use zoning can be achieved primarily by the designation of Sites of Special
Scientific Interests (SSSIs), coastal protection areas and Marine Parks / Reserves.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

a. Site of Special Scientific Interests (SSSIs)
SSSIs are designated to conserve areas of scientific interest with rare fauna or flora
species in Hong Kong.
Generally, no new development or change in land use can be carried out in the area.
The north shore of Tolo Harbour and the Mai Po Marshes are examples of SSSIs.

b. Coastal protection areas
Coastal protection areas are planned to conserve, protect and retain the natural
coastline and preserve the coastal environment. These include places with attractive
geological features, physical landforms or areas of natural landscape with scenic or
ecological value.
Only development which protects the existing natural landscape or essential
infrastructure projects are permitted.
The estuary of Ho Chung river is an example of coastal protection area.

c. Marine parks / reserves
Marine parks / reserves are set up to protect and manage ecologically important
marine environments and resources.
These parks / reserves can facilitate conservation, recreation, education and research
activities for the public.
There are four marine parks and one marine reserve in Hong Kong, covering a total
marine area of 2 430 ha.
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

3. Managed retreat (doing nothing)
With the approach of managed retreat, the coast is allowed to evolve naturally by
erosion, deposition and flooding.
The government takes no action other than to monitor the situation.
This approach is applied to land of low value with no significant risks to people.
As nothing is done, this is a very inexpensive method in the short term. Nevertheless, if
erosion continues, there may be a need to compensate people for the loss of business,
land or home.

Evaluation of methods and strategies used for river and coastal

1. Effectiveness of the strategy
Some of the strategies taken are not as effective as expected.

2. Durability of the strategy
Some of the strategies are not long-lasting and cannot withstand strong ocean waves.

Strategies Advantages Disadvantages
Dyke /
sea wall
Provides long-term
protection against flooding or
May accelerate beach erosion
Limits accessibility to the beaches
Reflected wave may erode the
materials under the sea wall
Disrupts the natural interaction
between the coast and the sea
Very expensive

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


Protect the beaches / banks
from erosion
Maintain beach stability

Shift the coastal erosion problems to
the downdrift location
Visual impact unsightly
Increases sand in the
foreshore to protect the
Reshapes the beach to an
optimal profile against
Relatively inexpensive

Requires continuous maintenance
Must be carefully designed as they
may alter the biota on the beach
and dredging site
Land use
Low cost
Prevents / reduces future
damage effectively

Cannot reduce existing damage
Reduces development
Land use relocation is costly
Limits the damage of erosion
or flooding
Maintains the natural

Expensive compensation to relocate
Affects existing human activities
along the river course or coast

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Costs and benefits

Costs Benefits
1. Economic
a. Construction costs
Most hard engineering incur
construction costs which poor
countries may not be able to
For instance, construction of
large-scale dams and reservoirs
is a costly and lengthy process
which incurs huge costs.
In contrast, groyne construction
requires relatively less
construction cost.

b. Maintenance costs
All strategies have a limited
lifespan and require regular
maintenance work.
After dam construction, regular
inspection and dredging must be
conducted to maintain the
reservoir capacity and strength of
the dam.

Human lives and properties
are protected from floods
and erosion by effective
management strategies.
Values of properties and
the cost of insurance can
be maintained.

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Wooden groynes are cheap to
build but have a short lifespan that
requires constant repair after
2. Ecological
Some of the strategies, especially
those related to hard engineering
strategies such as river
channelisation, building sea walls
and dykes, may destroy the
natural beauty along the coastline
or river.
Management works cause the
displacement of large areas of
wetland habitat and can act as a
sink for trapping marine or
river-borne pollution that would
otherwise be flushed away by
natural flows. These ecological
costs should not be neglected.
Some areas with high
ecological value can be
protected from erosion and
flooding through different
river and coastal
management strategies.
Plants and animals living
along rivers and the coast
can continue to flourish and
their habitats can be

Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge


3. Social
Constructing reservoirs or
managing retreat strategies
along hazardous coasts
requires displacing local
residents and economic
Compensation and relocation
are costly and may cause
social unrest.
The cost of submergence or
collapse of historic sites,
tourist spots and unique
heritage areas cannot be

Coastal and river management
can effectively prevent
disasters. This can help
minimise worries of people
who were once threatened by
the hazards, therefore
promoting social harmony.
These management strategies
are intended to strike a
balance between resource
protection and economic
development, therefore
balancing and settling disputes
among different interest
Certain measures such as
beach nourishment can help
protect recreational areas for
different groups of the society
such as surfers, swimmers and
Section 2
Managing river and coastal environments: A continuing challenge

Problems may be encountered after all the costs and benefits have been

1. Enforcement issue
There are often criticisms about the inadequacy of existing strategies for conserving
ecologically important sites under private ownership.
As long as land use complies with zoning control, the government cannot prohibit
activities carried out on private lands even though they may not be compatible with
conservation objectives or may cause adverse impacts on natural habitats.
It is evident that conservation of important habitats involving private lands cannot
succeed without the support and cooperation of the landowners and other local
The level of enforcement is still low and this limits the effectiveness of the measures.
Although there are four marine parks and one marine reserve in Hong Kong, they
protect less than 2% of local coastal waters.

2. Divided opinions
From time to time, there are debates on whether a site should be conserved, especially
when the nature conservation objective conflicts with development proposals.
Nature conservation is essentially the conservation of biodiversity. Different people
may have different views on what should constitute an ecologically important site. Such
conflicting opinions may hinder management of the debated area.

Refer to the case of coastal management in the Holderness coast in Section 2 p.126