More than two decades after it was first planned, Egypt and Saudi Arabia may be about to start work on a land and sea bridge connecting the two countries. The proposed bridge would run 50 kilometres from the Tabuk region in Saudi, across the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba in Egypt. Conservationists in Egypt have however raised concerns about the possible destruction of coastal and marine environments in the process of building the bridge. Some explain that the bridge could negatively impact protected areas including coral reefs, the nesting grounds of turtles and the Tiran Island sea birds.
According to local news sources, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be meeting in the next few week to discuss the technical details of project. Costing an estimated US$3 billion, the project is by no means a small undertaking. In fact, the size and scale of the project is what concerns conservationist as there appears to be very little in the way of environmental assessment.
Smaller proposals to build artificial islands and bridges in the region have been criticized in the past for their potential environmental damage to the coastline and marine life. In Egypt, there is a constant threat to pristine ecosystems due to tourism industry and efforts to grow the sector following the Arab Spring. However, there should to be clear balance between the environment costs and the economic benefits and at the moment that balance is missing.
Speaking to a conservationist in Egypt, there are concerns about the impact the actual construction of the bridge will have on the marine environment. Building around sensitive marine ecosystems is deeply problematic and there could be long-term implications on fisheries, corals, the sea floor and water quality. Bringing a whole new trading centre to the region will also put pressure on the marine environment and its resources.
And all those in the tourism industry need to bear in mind the impact of this environmental degradation on their sector as the diving and beach industry could be negatively affected. The disruption to those currently living in the area such as local bedouins is another issue which needs to be addressed.
The bridge is designed to facilitate the movement of goods and also pilgrims during the hajj season by reducing the time it takes to cross the borders. Indeed, the bridge would serve as a connection between two continents and it is believed that the cost of the project would be recovered in 10 years through tolls and fees.
Top Image via vigour/flickr.
For more on Egypt and marine protection see:
Israel Considers Building An Artificial Island Off Gaza
When Tourism and Nature Collide- Protected Land Under Threat In Egypt
‘There is Hope Now’- Conservationist On Egypt’s Post Revolution Future