The Egyptian Government has failed to provide concrete answers regarding the Red Sea oil spill that occurred last month.
One month after oil leaked on to Hurghada’s beaches along the Red Sea, popular among tourists for reef diving, the Government-run oil company Petroleum Misr denies responsibility for the spill despite footage that incriminates them. Oil in visible regions was quickly cleaned up by local groups, but there is concern that oil continues to threaten the out-of-sight but sensitive ecosystem North of Hurghada.
Although the leak was originally reported June 18th, scientists suspect that the oil had been simmering for several days before a local skipper, Hamdy Shahat, accidentally discovered it. Amr Ali, the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency (HEPCA) Director, criticizes responsible parties for failing to draw attention to their mishap.
“This is not just about the spill — it’s about how crises like this are handled with zero transparency,” he told Global Post reporter Jon Jensen. “Whoever caused this spill should not get away without a penalty.”
Despite video footage which demonstrates oil trickling from an offshore drilling platform, which resembles a Petrogulf Misr platform near Geisum Island, PetroGulf Misr’s Khaled Boraie told Global post that they “have no relations with the oil spill in Hurghada.”
Explanations for the spill ranged from older sludge that melted because of high temperatures, or a spill from a passing oil tanker, but scientists are not convinced.
Tourism vs. Oil
The “official” cause unknown, oil was washed to shore by strong winds and currents and caused minimal damage. However, a professor of Marine Sciences at the Suez Canal University, Mahmoud Hanafy, is concerned that the ecosystem supporting turtles, fish, and the vulnerable white-eyed gull, may already have been disrupted.
“The problem is that the spill happened in an area with a sensitive ecosystem. This is a very valuable piece of land for diving, as an ecological site and for oil production,” Hanafy explained to Jensen. “The challenge for Egypt is to figure out how to reach a balance between oil production and conservation of the Red Sea.”
Jensen notes that while 70% of Egypt’s 685,000 barrels per day are taken from the Red Sea, this industry faces stiff competition from Egypt’s tourism industry, which fetched $7.6 billion in 2007; the competition is so stiff that Egypt’s Petroleum Minister might limit oil concessions in the Red Sea.
But this could just as easily be lip-service to quell dissenting voices. The Chairman of the Red Sea Hotel Association represents a community for whom oil spills are relatively common, and who worry about what a spill like that which has wreaked havoc for the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystems, industries, and residents would mean for them.
“We only found out about this the minute oil hit the beach. We put down booms and cleaned the sand, but that’s not the solution,” he told Global Post. “The solution is to stop the oil platforms from operating so close to our beaches.”
:: Global Post
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