Egyptian Govt Cracks Down On Illegal Red Sea Development

red-sea-illegal-developmentDoes new crackdown demonstrate a gradual shift in Egyptian environmental policy?

The Red Sea Governorate is cracking down on illegal, unsustainable development in Hurghada, Egypt, where 200,000 citizens are custodians of one of the earth’s most unique marine ecosystems.

Though challenges to its coral reef system and overall health are numerous – including tourism and oil spills – many businesses and residents have stepped up to the plate to keep it safe.

Since the 1980s, the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA), comprised of a collection of dive centers and hotels, has lobbied on its behalf, and the Red Sea Sustainable Tourism Initiative was established in 2000. Even so, until now, bad eggs have been hard to regulate. This may change with the recent move to prosecute two resort owners who defied local construction and environmental law.

Al Masry Alyoum reports that two resort owners had usurped large tracts of seashore property and initiated construction projects without first procuring building permits.

As a result, according to the paper, “head of the Red Sea Governorate, Magdy Qobeisy, decided on Sunday to refer [them] to general prosecution.”

Mr. Saber Mahmoud Morsy – who owns the Krotel resort – is accused of building on 2370 meters of land without permission, while Mr. Bel al-Baalabky, the Lebanese owner of the Maresort resort, is said to have developed 2600 meters illegally.

In addition to building without permission, the paper reports that both men face prosecution for endangering the marine environment. The Red Sea’s coral reef system is protected under Law 102 of the Elba Protectorate, but enforcement has been scant.

Earlier this year an oil spill leaked onto Hurghada’s beaches. The local community scrambled to fix the cosmetic damage that would impact on tourism, but little was done, as far as the public knows, to address damage to the marine environment out of site.

The Red Sea Governorate’s decision to prosecute Mr. Morsy and Mr. Al-Baalabky may signal a progressive step towards ensuring a better symbiosis between development and the environment on which it depends.

:: Al Masry Alyoum

More on the Red Sea:

Red Sea Oil Spill Cover-Up Worse than Reported

Protection Legislation Endangers Red Sea Sharks

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