It was reported in Reuters recently that the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh is intending to cut its carbon emissions over the next decade. This, we understand, is to enable it to target a growing class of eco-tourists. The project is reported to be costing the Egyptian government a tidy $238 million, and will bring the resort more into line with European holiday destinations.
The plan is widely welcomed by experts and environmentalists, who also feel that the Egyptian government should be stronger in enforcing existing environmental rules in a resort with over 62,000 hotel rooms. It is this continued frantic expansion and the resulting dust that has been blamed for damage to the coral reefs.
The tourism industry is part of the vital lifeblood of the Egyptian nation, accounting for approximately 11% of GDP.
“Tourists will pick places that are environmentally friendly and taking positive steps to reduce their carbon emissions,” said Hisham Zaazou, a top official at the Tourism Ministry. The resort’s aim is to be carbon neutral by 2020, though Zaazou also said: “We will not reach the zero stage by 2020, but we will be almost there.”
The Egyptian government plan to introduce a package of renewable energy schemes, restrict the wasteful use of water and improve the waste management. All this in a resort that is beginning to resemble Benidorm in the late sixties where concrete ‘towers’ exploded on to the horizon at an alarming rate. Beaches, dive sites and Sharm El Sheikh Hotels attracted 3-4 million of the roughly 12 million tourists who visited Egypt last year, Zaazou said “Sharm El Sheikh is a lab (laboratory), and once it succeeds, we will replicate the project elsewhere.”
It is expected that work on some of the green initiatives will begin soon, with six small projects planned for completion by the end of the year. Among the programmes being started are the new diving restrictions designed to help with the preservation of the coral reefs, and the solar powered street lighting. It is intended that the street lighting project will be a gradual process, but the target is to apply it to the whole of the resort by the end of 2011. Longer term projects will involve the use of wind power for the resort’s energy needs as well as a wider use for solar power. It is also the government’s intention to use electric boats at some point, and to introduce hybrid buses.
“What gives this immediate urgency is … the buzz word, climate change,” Zaazou said. A 2008 U.N. report said travel and tourism contributed about 5 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions. Much of the blame has been put on air travel, the way most tourists reach Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula’s tip.
It is possible that Egypt itself will be one of the worst countries hit by climate change, because most of the population is centred in the low-lying Nile Valley and Delta. This is the fertile agricultural area, but it is also the area most vulnerable to rising sea levels. Zaazou commented that the project would cost about 3 percent of Sharm el Sheikh’s annual revenues and the aim was for private investors to meet approximately half of this. “We are trying to entice the private sector to move in this direction,” he said. It is reported that several banks had indicated that they would be willing to help with finance, and some hotels had already started the process by planning to install energy saving schemes around their respective properties.
Most people feel the project is a good idea, but say the government could increase its impact by enforcing existing environmental protection rules. Sherif El-Ghamrawy, owner of an ecological tourist lodge north of Sharm el-Sheikh, said the government needed to convince private firms that protecting the environment was good business and should enforce environmental codes more firmly.
Bio: Peter is an internet marketer who enjoys writing about environmental issues, music and topical stories.