more information on GOVERNANCE IN



This section provides an example of local coastal governance in the case study area of Bocca di Magra, Italy


The mouth of the Magra river (photo by William Domenichini via Wikimedia Commons)


Governance of coastal zones and disaster risk 


Coastal protection and management

The Liguria Regional Council is responsible for approving the procedural coastal protection and management plans, which include all significant water bodies in the region. The Plan for the Protection of Water, in accordance with Article 44 of Legislative Decree 152/99, replaced by Article 121 of Legislative Decree 152/06, is an instrument for planning water resources and defining necessary coastal measures. For beach nourishment and coastal defence works, the specific standards and technical criteria adopted by the Region are stated in a number of laws (see ‘Policies for coasts and disaster risk’ below). These include general criteria for seasonal nourishment interventions; criteria for safeguarding the priority natural habitat Posidonia Oceanica; and general criteria for the monitoring defence coast works and coastal settlements.


Flood risk management

Floods and landslides are the most frequent risks in Bocca di Magra, followed by coastal erosion. Following Law 183/89, which regulates flood risk management, and the subsequent EU Water Directive and the EU Floods Directive, river basins are the relevant planning and management unit for flood risks. The Interregional River Basin Authority of Magra-Sarzana is the competent local agency for the Northern Appenines River Basin, one of eight in Italy. It works closely with local authorities to implement the Basin Plan, which supports them and coordinates environmental policies. The Master Plan for the Hydrogeological Assessment (PAI) of the Magra River Basin and the Torrente Parmignola furthermore establishes flood-risk protective measures.


Civil protection and disaster risk reduction

Disaster risk reduction in Italy is chiefly carried out at the regional and municipal levels. Regional civil protection agencies are responsible for coordinating operational activities on the ground. This is done with the assistance of Municipal Operating Centres, which are formed by representatives of governments, organizations and the Operating Structures. Resources and national preparedness are organised at the national level by the Civil Protection Department, Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Law 225/92 is the fundamental framework regulating civil protection at national and local levels.

The Italian territory is divided up into 134 alert zones. Following a warning of adverse weather conditions, regional Authorities declare the level of criticality for each alert zone. The case study area of Bocca di Magra is included in the Alert Zone LIGU-C. Three levels of alert are issued from the Regional Civil Protection Office to administrators and the population: ALERT YELLOW (the lower), ALERT ORANGE and ALERT RED (the higher). The Bocca di Magra area has planned an improvement of risk reduction measures with a particular focus on a participatory approach with a diversity of stakeholders.


Engagement of non-state actors in coastal governance 


The primary non-government actors in Sarzana and Ameglia are self-organized citizen groups. These groups are made up of local citizens interested in the local emergency plans prepared by Municipality Civil Protection. Such citizen groups propose improvements to local emergency plans and aim to raise awareness about emergency procedures and response. Their objective is a more participation-based approach in Municipality Emergency Plans and to be informed about risks in the area, e.g. fluvial flooding, landslides, coastal flooding.


Stakeholder perceptions of governance 


The graphic below provides a snapshot of how governance in Bocca di Magra is perceived by those living and working in the area. The responses are the result of  in-depth interviews conducted with eight coastal stakeholders from five stakeholder groups (SH2,3,4,6,8) presented in the list on the right. Interviewees who commented on the mode of governance are plotted on the graph on the left. As these interviews come from a reduced number of interviewees they are not necessarily representative, but provide a snapshot of local opinion. 



Coastal governance in Bocca di Magra is affected by many of the governance issues discussed in the general overview of governance in Italy. Regional, provincial and municipal administrations are perceived as fragmented and overlapping and not always working in a coordinated manner. Changes in political leadership at times lead to changing priorities, different agendas, and replicating existing work programmes.

Interviewed stakeholders emphasized centralised decision-making and limited opportunities for participation. Low engagement with the local population negatively impacts the uptake of measures. Generally, stakeholders point to the need for more and better cooperation and communication between authorities and local population and among municipalities. This includes the need for agencies and institutions to put preventative instruments and structures in place to be able to better cope with floods and landslides, rather than mainly acting in the case of emergency.

People are not prepared and something must be done

Changing political leadership slows down action

A key theme identified in the Bocca di Magra case study area is the perceived lack of communication and information sharing between different authorities as well as between the public authorities and the public.There is a need for communication of existing risk reduction measures or management plans, training programmes and exercises with the citizens to increase awareness of the types of risks present and actions to take in emergency situations. There appears to be little public participation in disaster risk reduction strategies.

Communication is difficult at all levels

People need to know how to act in an emergency 

In particular, a stakeholder focus group convened in the Risc-Kit project identified the need to: 

  • increase public awareness of threats and action in case of emergencies, beginning at school level
  • ensure that tourist populations are considered in DRR plans
  • improve communication between institutions and different political actors
  • coordinate systems of alert, responsibilities and activities between municipalities and regions.

The position of the city of Sarzana is subject to particular confusion as the two surrounding regions (Liguria and Tuscany) operate different scales of warning.