A grassroots environmental group of activists are continuing to put pressure on the Egyptian government to end its plans to develop and erect a bridge linking the Sinai Peninsula with Saudi Arabia. Praised by the government as a means of boosting trade, business and easing travel between the two countries, environmental activists are crying foul over where the bridge aims to be built: right on the Ras Mohamed National Park – one of Egypt’s natural wonders home to coral reefs, dive sites and endangered species. “If they build this bridge, coral reefs, endangered species and at least 22 dive sites will all be gone,” Ibrahim Mohamed, an activist with the anti-bridge group IBRedSea told Green Prophet.
The organization is a conglomeration of a group of concerned citizens calling for the project to be scrapped over environmental concerns that have arisen. Two protected islands, Tiran and Sanafir will be hit hard by any development, with the potential of becoming void of any life in their surrounding area.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, during his visit to Saudi Arabia in July spoke specifically with King Abdullah on the $3 billion project, which economists and government officials have confirmed to Green Prophet that they are looking at moving forward on the project.
The irony, said fellow IBRedSea activist Ahmed Abdel Rasoul, was that despite environmental experts concerns over the bridge being placed on two key islands in the national preserve, no environmental studies have been completed, even started, by the country’s environment ministry.
“They are avoiding having any study on the environment impacts of the bridge because they don’t want to really understand what would happen,” Rasoul told Green Prophet. “They made no environment study and when we asked the ministry, they had no idea.”
Despite the reported environmental issues, which would see massive destruction and potential death of South Sinai coral reefs, numerous species, migration patters of both fish, dolphins and birds, the government in Cairo praises the bridge project as a much-needed cash injection for Egypt’s struggling economy, which has been hit hard by a downturn since the January uprising ousted the former government of Hosni Mubarak.
But Mohamed and Rasoul believe that by pushing an international campaign against the bridge project and forcing the government to conduct studies on the impact to the natural environment, they can make strides in putting pressure on Cairo to stop the project before it affects Sinai communities and tourism.
Both activists agree that in order to be successful they must reach out to the local populations, and they are already moving forward on this aspect of their campaign, speaking with community Bedouin leaders and tourism operators to inform them on the project and how it would affect their income and way of life.
“We have to suppor the locals in Sinai development,” Rasoul said, adding that those who will benefit from the bridge, despite reassurances from the government, “will be the big companies and not the local communities.”
For now, the bridge that aims to link Egypt with Saudi Arabia remains in play, and both governments remain obstinate in listening to the activists on the ground who are delivering a doomsday scenario for much of the Red Sea’s environmental beauty.