Sunday, March 4, 2012

Save the Coral Reefs of Tiran and Sanafir Islands

Last March 1st ,2012 after we found that Saudi Arabia is pumping aids to Egypt after the big act of PM Ganzoury , we read in the newspaper and news website that the King Abdullah bridge project is being resurrected once again.
King Abdullah bridge project was an ambitious project suggested to have a bridge between Egypt and Saudi Arabia during the time of Mubarak to end the accidents of Egyptian ferries especially after the disaster of the Salem 95 ferry. I did not support that project during the time of Mubarak because of its ecological effects on the red sea especially we were speaking about very special coral reef area then. For political reasons then Mubarak did not want the project.
Tiran area Coral Reef 
In July 2011 we got this small news that the bridge will connect Sharm El Sheikh and Tabuk then in August 2011 in the Israeli embassy incident when we were busy Globe and Mail published a great simplified report about the project with its pros and cons. According to that report the bridge will connect between the Egypt and KSA through the straits of Tiran and will pass through the disputed Tiran island and Sanafir Island. After several months and showing an improvement in our Egyptian-KSA relations early last month we found out the ministry of transportation is saying that the work in this project will start by mid 2013.
Despite what it seems to be the project of the century that would turn Egypt rich in no time , I do not support this project. I do not support this project for ecological reasons. I am not environmentalist to provide a detailed study but I know simple science facts :
Coral Reef in Tiran Island by Peter Geervliet
  • The construction of that bridge or even bringing strange elements to the marine life will alter the whole ecosystem in the area whether in Egypt or in Saudi Arabia or in Jordan or in Israel whether during the construction of that bridge or afterwards
  • There is something called food chain in the wild life just as the marine life if one single small thing changed in that chain the whole ecosystem changes for ever whether on the medium or long term or even on the short term
  • We are speaking about one of the few places in the world with a marine life like no other , we are speaking about very rare sensitive creatures fighting for their survival already against wars,ships , oil rigs and divers since through out 20th century for God's sake. 
  • Please read this simplified entry in Wikipedia about the human impacts and the coral reefs.
  • The Red Sea includes 6000-year-old fringing reefs located around a 2,000 km (1,240 mi) coastline
  • I only knew about the Tiran and Sanafir islands dispute or rather complexity between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel now. My concern is not Geopolitics despite one must think if the location of the bridge is a kind of a comprise between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. My concern is the environmental impact on the Tiran and Sanafir Island , you must know my dear reader that both Tiran and Sanafir are part from the Ras Mohamed National Reserve
In Late February 5 major parties “FJP, Freed Egyptian party , El Wasat , El Adl and El Hadra” held a conference in Port Ghaleb to discuss the future of tourism in Egypt along with tourism development companies. These parties and companies reached to the following : They must apply the sustainable development principles in Egypt through preserving the environment and unique ecosystems in the country then They declared their full support the Egyptian Saudi bridge in Tiran straits despite it passed through Ras Mohamed National Preserve !! Among those who attended that meeting and supported these decisions , the head of the media , culture and tourism committee in the people’s assembly Mohamed Abdel Moneim El Sawy !!!! 
I can’t imagine an ugly metal construction in the middle of that blue sea with cars , horns and pollution in this amazing area , why we want to destroy this for God sake !?
Red Sea : Tiran Island
Those who are in favor of the project say the following :
  • The bridge will end the accidents of ferries
  • The bridge will raise the trade between the two countries.
  • The bridge will make the trip shorter for those who take the land road.
  • This bridge will help in bonding Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
  • This bridge will increase Saudi tourism
Yes the bridge will decrease the accidents of ferries but it will not be accident free itself still you can decrease the rate of ferries’ accidents if you truly apply the safety laws and regulations. Countries all over the world have got ferries and do not have these accidents simply because they apply the law. “I already covered the Salem Ferry case and wrote about Salem Express more than anybody in English speaking Egyptian blogs so I do not need someone comes and attacks me”
The exact location of the bridge
Well if you have a good product in Egypt the Saudis and the whole world will take from you even you are in the end of the world with no bridge speaking in businesswise. Already you can increase your trade and your exports to Saudi Arabia through air flights and their ferries. The air flights will even be more faster. Already in this sense I hope people understand that any country like Saudi Arabia in the world will import the best and will not import something they do not need just because of nationalist religious bonds.
I do not know where to start regarding that Bonding issue , I do not think that we are not bonded already. The Arab-Arab cooperation does not need bridges like that if we are speaking seriously and please do not let me get started on the Saudi position from the Egyptian revolution. It will be An Arab Arab cooperation to destroy environment. 
Sharm El Sheikh will be like Bahrain , a free gate away from all moral and legal obligations for the Saudis so please stop pretending for once as they will come for scuba diving as they have got Jeddah with its coral reefs and they got their Safari  Bedouin trips all over the kingdom. Already you have a booming tourism sector there especially with the departure of Mubarak from Sharm El Sheikh , get some political stability for real and you will find tourists for all over the globe coming to you.  It will increase the Saudi tourism but will affect negatively on the tourism coming on the medium and short term for diving.
Many Egyptians can’t afford a weekend in the red sea areas and this is why a project like the bridge can be popular especially it will link Egypt with Saudi Arabia , the land of our Islamic Holiest Sites as well the richest Kingdom in the area. The Islamist majority in this parliament especially with their standard of culture expressed so far in the past few weeks will support the bridge blindly with my due respect.
Anyone will speak against this bridge will be attacked by the Salafists as a bloody secular who does not want relation with the Holy Land. Anyone will speak against this bridge will be attacked by the businessmen an all those who will consider him fighting .
I'm watching you
By Werner Boehem in Tiran Island
Some reminded me on twitter that Mubarak opposed the project because of Israel “actually it was because his security despite Israel had its own objections” thus if I dared to speak against it then I will be branded as as ex-Mubarak regime remnant !!
Most Egyptians have not seen these treasures in the sea to  know how beautiful they are. Most Egyptians do not know that these treasures actually sustain a complete tourism industry sector , people do not come from around the globe just to enjoy the beach but rather to enjoy the scenery underneath the deep red sea. Millions of Egyptians depend on the coral reefs and marine life gifted by God for their living , this bridge will not help them much in the medium and long run.
Red Sea : Tiran Island
Some will say that wait till you hear the opinion of the experts from both sides , well unfortunately I do not trust any experts from both governments because I know that the environment is the last thing any Arabic government thinks about or cares about. I want independent panel from environmentalists and marine life experts from the world to check this project “with my all due respect to the Arab marine life experts” because I know Westerns know the real value of this region more than the Arabs unfortunately.
Due to our educational systems most Arabs ignore the ecological side effects if any project , this is why the refusal of the people of Dameitta to MOPCO factory seems to be strange. You must know that in Germany there are ecological concerns against the upcoming German Danish underwater Link. German tourists pay thousands of Euros every year to come and dive in Tiran island and to enjoy the fact it is industrial free.
Tiran Island
The Island of Tiran by Helen McCarthy , imagine this view with ugly metal bridge
In the State of Goa, India there was this huge discussion regarding a sea link bridge between two areas there , the project faced a roadblock when the National Oceanic institute of India announced that project will affect the marine life there. The government found an alternative for the project as far as I know.
And by the way I am also against any Israeli Jordanian project that can alter the environment in the red sea. Enough already an assault on this piece of heavens in our beautiful red sea.
God gave us a very beautiful country and we do not know how to compete in order to destroy this beauty , sometimes I fee that we do not deserve this beautiful country as we have mastered the destruction of its beauty.
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14 comments:

  1. Bonjour,

    C'est une vraie tristesse de penser que des piles de ponts vont être posées au milieu de la réserve de Ras el Mohamed...

    Colette

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  2. The bridge wont affect the ecosystem as much as the ferries who drag up the water and all the pollution aspects. The bridge will be Saudi Arabias latest weapon in getting it's Wahabi AQ operatives easily and quickly onto the Egyptian landmass! There is no stopping the wahabi fruitcakes from spreading their doctrine into the villages of Egypt now. If you think the Salafist bandwagon is big now just wait a few years after this bridge and wait and see the Saudi terrorists making good use of it.

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    Replies
    1. Sir, I think you're mistaken..
      At least Saudis are not waiting for the bridge. They already here by planes and satellite dishes and recorded sermons.

      Delete
    2. Planes & satellite dishes? That's not what they used to quell the demonstrations in Bahrain. I think it was called "a bridge."

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  3. Dear Zenobia; the idea of the bridge has been has been flaunted and discussed as propaganda for several years now, a few basic facts need to be highlighted before we get bogged down in a propagnda whirlpool ourselves... the gulf of Aqaba is formed naturally as an extension to the African rift valley, a land depression in the continent of africa that extends from its central parts, to beyond its continental shelf into asia,the valley cuts through from the middle of africa, through te red sea north forming the gulf of aqaba and later the Dead sea(sea of galleli)in israel, interesting fact about the rift valley is that for thousands of years it has opened up(expanded) at an regular annual rate of expansion, thus allowing for the formation of the gulf n other low-lying land features as mentioned above, more interestingly, the rate of expansion continues and will keep on increasing at its usual annual rate till the end of the life of this planet....now back to the bridge, it is a physical impossibility to construct such a marvel of creation and keeping it from breaking up as the gulf slowly expands, moreover, assuming that the engineering technology exists for bridges n roads in cases of temperature related expansions, the expansion joints fitted on those structures are of a calculated dimension n based on ambient temprature n material used expansion coefficients,but most importantly they are retractable joints in other words they expand to allow for variances, then retract when conditions change again.... to date no technology exists for expansion joints that move lineary in one direction till the end of time as is the case with the proposed fantasy bridge.... do your research, the bridge is a plain work of fiction, even with our most uptodate engineering knowledge..... p.s seems people do not understand how our planet is formed n how it works, the magic word is , African Rift Valley..... i hope this calrifies the issue for you and that now you can direct your energy towards more realistic and fulfilling goals.... best regards,

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    Replies
    1. Tectonic movements are fairly slow, they are several millimeters per year. The Atlantic for example widens at about 30 mm per year. The following paper estimates the movement to be 4 mm per year (look at the discussion at the end):

      http://www.ipgp.fr/~klinger/page_web/biblio/publication/slip-rate.pdf

      This means that after hundred years the movement will be of the order of one meter. It should be possible to construct a bridge that can tolerate this amount of displacement during its lifetime. The thermal expansion is similarly big: For a 1000m long concrete bridge and a temperature change of 40°C it is about 0.5m.

      The thermal expansion coefficient was taken from here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_expansion#Thermal_expansion_coefficients_for_various_materials


      Eike.

      Delete
  4. Zenobia,

    I'm very interested to know more about this issue and what specific environmental damage the bridge would induce and if there will be an environmental impact assessment board involved if the bridge is to take place. I will do my research, but could you share with me what sources you already have? Thank you.

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  5. Since some years every year the same silly subject! Facts are:
    1. The northwest area of Saudia Arabia ist mostly uninhabited mountain desert, there is definitely no need for car and truck traffic starting from Sharm el Sheik. Therefore there are also no ferries from Sharm el Sheik to close area of Saudi Arabia, and not existing ferries can not sink.
    2. From northwest of Saudi Arabia to Mekka (--> hadsch) and to Riad is a very long way over land, of course without any strong public request.
    3. The ferry accidents have been on routes from Jeddah to Safaga, this is the main route. A bridge crossing Tiran strait will not avoid any further accident.
    4. Routing of the bridge is in a tectonic very active zone, Sinai and Saudi Arabia leave each other by 3 cm/year. How to contract a bridge that exists for 20 years?
    5. Spanning strait of Tiran needs a bridge minimum 40 m free passage for commercial ships. This needs either three pylons in Sharm el Sheik, at one of the Tiran reefs and at Tiran islands with minimum height 120 m, or by avoiding the middle two pylons of about 700 m (worldwide never built before).
    6. Increasing Saudi tourism is a fairy tale. This country is rejecting almost each trial for tourism activities.

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  6. This is the first time I have heard about this possible bridge project and frankly it is the most disgusting idea ever imagined.

    A. Tiran is a protected area. no bridge should be built on it.
    B. The ocean beneath the bridge area is a natural protected reserve. No pillons or bridge structure should be submerged to help in the construction of a bridge.
    C. Most importantly, the living species in the are of the proposed bridge structure generates millions of dollars in tourism each year.

    There is no need for a bridge as there is an international airport in Sharm. And the addition of bridge structure would reduce the marine life and the tourism industry in the area.

    Great way to destroy your natural avenues to generate tourism dollars Egypt.

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  7. Zeinobia,

    I just noticed this post is from last March. I think you should update it with the latest information and reset the date so people will see this on the front page of your site when they go there.

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  8. I can't believe how sick I feel after hearing of this proposed bridge.

    Egypt - don't do this!!!

    please, you'll be killing the environment, the underwater sea life, scuba diving/snorkeling industry, and really setting your self and Sharm el-Sheikh back in terms of tourism.

    please don't do this.

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  9. This was published by the Guardian News paper
    The Red Sea is facing a crisis that could see much of its wonderful marine life cease to exist. Continued polluting of the water, constant oil spillage from offshore rigs and a lack of awareness in Egypt and around the region about the importance of maintaining vital ecosystems all contribute to the threat.
    A few travellers passing through Cairo earlier this month sent me an email describing their disappointment at the diving they experienced off Egypt's top resort, Sharm el-Sheikh. What they saw was "completely a different scene" from their first visit in 2004. "The coral was turning grey and dying," they said.
    Over and over I have heard stories from divers about the decaying state of the Red Sea's coral reefs. It is unfortunate, but true. No longer is the Red Sea a pristine location to witness the spectacle of marine life and coral reefs. One of the main causes is the constant pouring of waste from hotels along the coastal areas, but the tourism industry more generally has done further harm by pumping chemicals and other waste products into the sea. Resolving these problems is proving extremely difficult.
    Not only are coral reefs under threat, but other marine life, too. Offshore oil rigs have been in the Red Sea waters for decades, but little has been done to ensure the equipment is up to date. These rigs stream a constant pool of oil into the sea. Ahmed el-Droubi of the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency (Hepca) told me earlier this year that much of the dolphin population has migrated further and further south as a result.
    There are areas that are uninhabitable as a result of oil spillage, he said. Hepca has warned about the oil continually seeping into areas along the coast, including beaches, which have seen massive degradation in recent years. A major oil spill last summer showed the ugly face of offshore drilling – not only in the Gulf of Mexico – but here in the Red Sea.
    The oil spread far and wide, according to reports, and even as the government claimed it had been contained, beaches continued to be flooded with it. Even today, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) told me that a number of the beaches are still "unsafe for tourism".
    The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned of what is happening to the Red Sea:
    "The major threats to the marine environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are related to land-based activities. These include urbanisation and coastal development (for example, dredge and fill operations), industries including power and desalination plants and refineries, recreation and tourism, waste water treatment facilities, power plants, coastal mining and quarrying activities, oil bunkering and habitat modification such as the filling and conversion of wetlands."
    With tourism one of the top foreign currency providers in Egypt, the resultant loss of coral reef quality and marine life has left Egypt in a bind.
    There are good people working hard to clean up the ecosystems across the region, including the Red Sea. Hepca and Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) are two of these organisations, but they come up against one major problem in their work: a lack of overall environmental consciousness.
    Take the efforts to rid the Red Sea of plastic bags – a major culprit in the pollution of the water and marine life and biodiversity degradation in the Red Sea. Hepca launched a campaign last year, garnering the support of local Egyptian government in the area to ban the use of plastic bags at supermarkets.









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  10. Today, more than a year since that law was passed, go to any supermarket on Egypt's Red Sea coast and your purchases will be thrown into a plastic bag. Those bags are then scattered in the desert and make their way into the water, leaving sea life threatened. People, despite knowing that their actions have a great impact on their surroundings, continue to avoid solutions.
    Yahia Shawkat, writing in Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, attempted to argue that Egyptians are "environmentally conscious people" – adding, of course, "in our own way". That's just the problem, as wealthy and elite Egyptians and Arabs such as Shawkat continue to paint a rosy picture of environmentalism in the country and around the region, the facts on the ground are more stark and depressing. Take a look at the coral, or at least what is left.
    What is needed, one environmental consultant at a major supermarket chain in Egypt told me recently, was a change of mindset. "We live in a time where information goes so quickly and we sometimes get inundated with too much too quickly, but in terms of what we are doing, and buying from the local supermarket, we have to be more conscious of how this changes the environment."
    He said Egyptians and Arabs who head to the Red Sea need to make "environmental strong decisions of how they are going to spend their money and time". If we want to see dolphins in the Red Sea in the immediate future, we must be more aware of the products we use, where we stay and what actions we support. Or face the consequences.

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  11. There is no reality in these facts, if you are interesting to protect eco-system then you should ask Israel and Jordan to stop crossing ferries and ships over Red Sea. and if you are more eco-system lover launch a campaign to stop all industrialization in the country. So please avoid estimating such things from which you are not known.

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