Surfers as coastal defenders - The Dollemard Landfill

Surfrider Foundation Europe
Published: 14 January 2022
Last edited: 14 January 2022
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The Dollemard cliffs at Le Havre in Normandy, France, are part of a rich coastal ecosystem. Since 1960, this Natura 2000 site has been threatened by an adjacent coastal landfill. Holding some 400,000 tons of domestic and industrial waste, it is the largest landfill in France. This waste is leaching into the surrounding environment. The problem is exacerbated by climate change: increasingly frequent heavy storms and rising seas. Unclearly apportioned responsibility and a lack of funding have thwarted past attempts to solve the problem. In coalition with local communities and public authorities, the Surfrider Foundation Europe Seine Maritime has been advocating action to avert further environmental damage. Their efforts recently paid off: the City of Le Havre has agreed to excavate the landfill. €900,000 has been raised from the State, Normandy Region, the City and the local community to restore the area back to good ecological condition.


West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Area-wide development
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Disaster risk reduction
Erosion prevention
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Local actors
Marine litter
Sustainable livelihoods
Waste management
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Conservation Planning
Risk communication, community engagement and behaviour change
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Resilience and disaster risk management
Territorial and spatial development
Sea level rise
Storm surges
Ecosystem loss
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Lack of access to long-term funding
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience


Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France


The case shows the power that local communities and advocates have in initiating political change. The Dollemard case can provide an example to other communities affected by waste degrading the environment.


A three-month test site has been created to find the most optimal way of cleaning the landfill without harming the coastline. This involved experimenting with sorting techniques, soil samples, and the composition of the pollution. In addition, ecological monitoring is being used to measure the impact on ecosystems and to optimize restoration. The findings of these experiments can provide important knowledge for future landfill restoration projects.


The fragile coastal and marine ecosystems will be protected against further erosion of the landfill. This will save up to 13,000 truckloads of waste by 2050. Besides protecting nature, the excavation of the landfill will positively impact on the health of local citizens, divers, and surfers by removing dangerous substances like asbestos.

Contributed by

eline.vanremortel_41284's picture

Eline van Remortel IUCN Urban Alliance