Apart from the Egyptian revolution itself, a powerful culmination of civil disobedience that roused thousands of somnambulant citizens from decades of political apathy, it’s still hard to see in what way this grand moment in history has been good for that country. While the country attempts to work through its political uncertainty, and as funds that were set aside to help environmental organizations enforce regulations dry up, unscrupulous developers are exploiting the attendant power vacuum with projects that take nary an environmental or social impact into consideration. Just south of its border with Israel on the Sinai peninsula, Dahab is an immensely popular Red Sea dive spot that is in serious jeopardy of losing its precious coral reefs and rustic atmosphere to a series of crowded resorts.
Almasry Alyoum reports that local environmental groups have been keeping an eye on development projects planned for Dahab since 2004, when the Ministry of Environment released a report which estimates that by 2017, there will be 248% more rooms in South Sinai than there were in 2003.
Along with a massive influx of residents (who would ostensibly work in said resorts), these projects appeal to tourists who are more concerned about getting a tan than the they are about protecting the area’s sensitive coral reefs. As such, they are less likely to observe measures to protect them.
To combat this potential problem, the Chamber of Diving and Water Sports (CDWS) received funding to enforce environmental regulations throughout Southern Sinai. For a while, they campaigned vigorously among the tourism and environmental ministries, as well as local governorates, to draw attention to the development agendas that would ruin their beautiful sand and sea.
But those clarion calls have gone unheeded, and funding for CDWS was rescinded following the 25 January revolution that toppled former Egyptian PM Hosni Mubarak, leaving only the tourism ministry in charge of ensuring that tourism operates sustainably on Sinai. So far, no good.
Already cement waste is being improperly discarded, restaurants are being extended over the water, and sewage plants are spilling into the Red Sea. And all signs show that this could get worse. Since 25 January, 2011, according to the paper, building projects have really taken off as a result of a more relaxed regulatory environment. A handful of dive instructors talked to Almasry Alyoum to generate support against developments in Dahab, while both the local City Council and Tourism Ministry declined to comment.
Evidence shows that eco-tourists comprise only a small percentage of the market and that European resort types are more likely to visit Dahab than anyone else. Given how desperately Egypt hopes to drum up tourism dollars to make up for shortfalls experienced since the revolution, there’s a very strong possibility that quiet little Dahab will soon look just like another Sharm Sheikh. And that would be an enormous shame.
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