Egypt is hoping to tap into the green pound by announcing a bold eco plan in the popular holiday resort of Sharm el Sheik. Due to begin later this year the $238 million project promises to introduce renewable energy, waste management and cut water use. Hopes are high. The resort proudly proclaims it will be entirely carbon neutral by 2020.
The news will be welcomed by environmentalists all over the world. Around three million people visit the resort every year drawn by the glorious beaches and spectacular opportunities for scuba diving. However, do the plans go far enough?
Over the past few years we’ve become used to bold government initiatives. They sound good, promising vast sums, but in reality, their effects are sometimes limited.
The main attraction of Sharm el Sheik is the magnificent coral reefs. Tourists from all over the world learn to dive just so they can have this once in a lifetime experience. However, the reefs themselves are now under threat, destroyed by dust caused by erosion. Environmentalists say that to support the plan the government should do more to enforce existing legislation to protect the resort’s most precious resort.
To some it’s more than just an environmental prerogative. Tourism makes up a major part of Egypt’s GDP. Encouraging more visitors without destroying the very thing they’ve come to see is a difficult balancing act, but it’s one the authorities in Egypt are determined to manage.
For that alone they’ve attracted major plaudits around the world. The Sharm el Sheik plan will serve as a test case; one that other destinations will be encouraged to follow. According to UN statistics tourism accounts for a major proportion of global CO2 emissions caused mostly by air travel. Since that’s the main form of transport bringing visitors into the resort, the success of this scheme will be closely monitored.
In a wider sense this serves as a test case for the entire carbon neutral mentality. It is a favourite buzz word for governments looking to appear active in addressing environmental issues. However, there is widespread doubt about its effectiveness in reality. In some respects it can, and has, been used as a placebo; something that gives the appearance of success without the firm and solid results. With that in mind, environmentalists will be scrutinising the results of The Sharm el Sheik experiment with keen interest.
Dom Donaldson is a travel expert.
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