“HEPCA” Hurghada... Initiatives to protect sea and land from damages of climate change

Writer: Salma Arafa - Translator: Amira Gawdat
الاحد 07 يوليو 2024 | 04:05 مساءً

Golden sand and wonderful blue waters characterize the beaches of the Egyptian city “Hurghada”, which has a global reputation in the international tourism market. But, like the rest of the cities in the region, it has been affected by the effects of climate change. This prompted environmental institutions to work to strengthen the response to these damages.

One organization that has come a long way in playing this role is the “Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association - HEPCA”, a non-profit organization that has implemented a large number of projects with the aim of protecting the environment and supporting local residents in the city and its surrounding areas.

Coral reef protection

Speaking to “Green in Arabic”, Nour El-Din Muhammad Farid, executive director of the HEPCA association, points out that the most prominent damage caused by the phenomenon of climate change in the region is the decrease in rainfall rates falling on the Red Sea mountains, and the increase in coral bleaching rates in the southern areas of the sea.

"Farid" referred to the project implemented by the association in cooperation with the Egyptian authorities, to establish the first Egyptian underwater military museum, with the aim of establishing new diving sites to protect coral reefs from excessive use.

According to the association’s official website, the museum includes 15 pieces of military equipment distributed over three different locations. This provides a new area to attract tourists, and reduces pressure on coral areas.

Coral reefs may be exposed to pollution or fractures due to excessive touristic activities, but the coral’s response to this damage leads to expelling the algae that are present in its tissues and responsible for its bright colors, which leads to whitening.

The association's executive director also pointed out that it is carrying out activities to monitor coral bleaching in the region, in addition to participating in the rehabilitation of areas affected by them.

In the project's latest reports for 2023-2024, the association noted "large-scale bleaching" in the southern Red Sea, while other areas remained intact to a great extent.

The world's largest buoys system

“Farid” also told us about the association’s installation of more than a thousand buoys (marine buoys used in ship mooring operations) in the Red Sea region to prevent the use of coral reefs for this task, making it the largest global system of its kind.

Local residents of the Red Sea region

Environmental deterioration has not only affected the marine environment, but there is damage suffered by the local Bedouin population of the region, including a decline in the number of grazing sites and a decrease in fish stocks, according to “Farid.”

The projects implemented by the association to support local residents include using solar energy to operate dozens of wells with the aim of providing clean water, in addition to collecting organic waste resulting from the activities of hotels operating in the area to transform them into fodder for livestock to eat.

Converting waste into fodder contributes to alleviating pressure on environmental resources, by reducing the consumption of traditional fodder that requires cultivating large areas of land.

"HEPCA" and sustainable fishing

“Farid” pointed to another group of the local community that the association supports and works to increase their environmental awareness, namely fishermen. This is done by training them on sustainable fishing practices, including avoiding poaching and raising awareness of its dangers, in addition to providing support to artisanal fishermen, who work with traditional tools, during periods of fishing ban.

The association launched a campaign to confront shark fishing, which is criminalized by Egyptian law, and also used social media platforms to raise awareness of the environmental impacts caused by the absence of this type of fish due to disruption of the food chain, in addition to the health risks caused by eating its meat.

Sustainable tourism

Speaking to us, the executive director noted that the association is working to promote eco-friendly tourism in the region through several ways; Among them is cooperation with tourism companies and hotels to promote green practices, such as reducing the use of plastics and managing waste sustainably.

He continued, pointing out that the association organizes campaigns directed to different groups, such as divers, boat workers, and tourists, to raise their awareness of the importance of preserving the marine environment, in addition to organizing workshops that explain to visitors the marine biodiversity in the region and the sensitivity of these environments.

The executive director of the association continued, stressing the need for civil society organizations, governments and international organizations to cooperate “to protect this unique region.”

Waste factory

The efforts made by the association for the safe disposal of waste in the city and the surrounding areas included the opening of a factory for sorting and managing solid waste in 2009, with a capacity of more than 400 tons per day, which is ultimately distributed to institutions working in the field of recycling in other areas inside Egypt.

According to the association’s official website, the solid waste that the association deals with includes waste generated by nearly one hundred hotels and resorts; This is equivalent to more than 150 thousand rooms.

The association's beach cleaning campaigns also include the participation of school students. Recently, more than 50 students succeeded in collecting 400 tons of waste from Al-Qalaan Beach in Marsa Alam City in the Red Sea Governorate.