Last Thursday, the Ministry of Environment launched its pioneering Eco Egypt campaign from Ras Mohamed in Sinai, a new campaign to promote nature reserves in Egypt, raise awareness of environmental issues and the importance of natural resources preservation, and promote responsible ecotourism.
The campaign was launched in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Ministry of Information and with the participation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the project to integrate biodiversity into Egyptian tourism funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The launch ceremony took place in the Ras Mohamed Reserve in the South Sinai governorate in the presence of Yasmine Fouad, minister of environment, Khaled El-Enany, minister of tourism and antiquities, Osama Heikal, minister of information, and Mohamed Manar Enaba, minister of civil aviation, in addition to 30 ambassadors and representatives of foreign embassies in Egypt and figures from the international media.
The campaign aims to promote protected areas and strengthen the ecotourism industry in Egypt, as well as to encourage citizens to visit nature reserves and learn about the different cultures that exist among the population in Egypt, including the heritage that distinguishes them and allows them to play a primary role in protecting the environment and biodiversity.
Fouad said in her address at the ceremony that the campaign opened new horizons for sustainable ecotourism in Egypt, as one of the aims of the Ministry of Environment’s strategy in its first phase is to develop protected areas through developing the infrastructure and services provided to visitors at 13 nature reserves across Egypt, including the establishment of a visitor centre at the Ras Mohamed and Fayoum reserves.
Members of the local community in both areas would be fully involved, she said, with these benefiting from sustainable job opportunities and raising the average income of the residents of the Fayoum and Wadi Al-Gemal reserves by some 126 per cent.
Ras Mohamed is the oldest nature reserve in Egypt and is home to 220 species of coral and 1,000 species of fish, Fouad said. She added that the ministry had enjoyed the full support of the political leadership in its work to protect Egypt’s nature reserves, helping to develop and manage them according to the highest international standards. The idea was to preserve them while also maximising their economic, social and cultural development, she said, preserving Egypt’s biodiversity in a way that supports the environment and the economy by attracting more investment to the ecotourism sector. This already features many activities, including camping, diving, astronomy, and bird-watching.
Heikal said at the event that the project was a great opportunity to prove that tourism does not contradict environmental projects that can attract more tourists and benefit the economy and local communities. He added that the project was part of the government’s determination to promote collective work and large-scale collaboration and that the state ministry of information was keen to cooperate with other ministries and organisations.
“We are working on simplifying the language of environmental topics in the media to reach all the people in order to create the needed awareness about environmental issues and sustainable development,” he said.
El-Enany said his ministry was cooperating with the ministry of environment in many areas to revitalise tourism, one of the pillars of the national economy, including in the decision of the environment ministry to reduce fees on individuals for trips to nature reserves in the South Sinai and Red Sea governorates by 50 per cent until March 2021, in addition to a 50 per cent reduction on daily cruise boats.
He added that his ministry encouraged responsible and sustainable tourism aimed at preserving the environment.
Fouad said that the Eco Egypt campaign was taking place within the framework of the “Go Green” presidential initiative to raise awareness about environmental issues. It provided an authentic model of sustainable development, she said, as it took into account the environmental, economic, social and health dimensions of ecotourism.
She added that ecotourism could help to revive the wider economy, especially in the light of the repercussions of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, by maximising the sustainable use of nature reserves and raising awareness of the importance of large-scale participation in their protection by integrating the local community in cooperation with youth, the private sector, and civil society.
The campaign would last for three years, she said, targeting the promotion of ecotourism in Egypt through the establishment of a website and a number of social-media platforms. There would also be publications to showcase Egypt’s rich natural resources, including stunning landscapes and many species of animals, birds, and rare plants.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.