[image via: robert_hornung]
Sharm el-Sheikh, in the Sinai region of Egypt, has been a thriving tourist location for decades due to its incredible beaches and vast coral reefs. Its great attraction to tourists has also been its downfall, however. The reefs are currently under threat due to the dust caused by erosion.
With tourism accounting for a major part of Egypt’s GDP, something had to be done to protect Egypt’s natural (and money-making) resource, and grant it legitimacy in a world that increasingly wants to see environmental conservation efforts.
Egypt therefore recently announced its plan to become completely carbon neutral by 2020. The $238 million project hopes to accomplish this through the introduction of renewable energy, reduction of water use, improvement of waste management, and, in the future, the use of electric boats and hybrid buses.
The green initiatives are planned to start this month and be completed by the end of 2010. These early initiatives include new diving restrictions to help preserve already damaged reefs, and the powering of street lights with solar energy.
Hisham Zaazou, a top official at the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, said that “tourists will pick places that are environmentally friendly and taking positive steps to reduce their carbon emissions.” Zazou also admitted, however, that he didn’t believe absolute carbon neutrality was realistic by 2020. He said that “we will not reach the zero stage by 2020, but we will be almost there.”
Sharm el-Sheikh’s remote location means that the 3-4 million annual tourists visiting it usually arrive by airplane – an infamously polluting form of transportation. This will be a unique challenge for the carbon neutral project, and one that will be interesting to watch unfold.
Experts welcome the Egyptian government’s plan, but believe that it should also be enforcing the existing environmental laws.
Read more about eco tourism in Egypt and the Middle East::