Photograph — Quartz

Egypt’s globally renowned windsurfing town of Dahab has announced an initiative to stop the use of plastic, becoming only the second city in the country to do so after Hurghada. According to City Council President, Tarek El Baz the initiative is intended to protect the environment and marine life.

Tarek also stated that hotel workers and tourist resort staff have already been sensitized on the dangers of plastic to marine organisms. In addition, Bela Plastic (without plastic) banners were pasted all over Dahab. This complements an earlier initiative “let the sea breathe” launched by South Sinai, the governorate under which Dahab is listed.

South Sinai governor, Maj. Gen. Khaled Fouda told environmental associations and nature reserves to find alternatives to plastics, a rallying call that manages to preserve marine life and protect Dahab’s local economy, as tourism and water diving are the principal attractions for tourists who visit the city. Though it is not yet clear what the scope of Dahab’s plastic-free initiative will be, in Hurghada, where Red Sea Governor General Ahmed Abdullah banned single-use plastics since early June, all food-related outlets were affected.

What is clear is that Dahab and its residents take eco-friendly solutions seriously. Just last month, a citizen called Mohamed Salah launched a viral Instagram-powered initiative Dahab Go Green with the stated goal of planting 600 trees, a project that received Dahab Council President Tarek’s blessing. Six months earlier, a citizens’ collective Dahab Defenders launched an online petition to save the historic blue hole in Dahab, collecting more than 2,000 signatures in just three days.

According to Shehab Abdel Wahab, head of Egypt’s Environmental Affairs Agency, Egypt uses 12 billion plastics yearly. A different report quotes that six percent of Egypt’s 16.2 million tons of annual waste comprises plastic, an unsustainable and toxic streak for a nation that depends heavily on nature for attracting tourists. Especially as president Sisi’s administration wants to lead North Africa in the SDG drive. However, until the government puts its money where her mouth is, citizens like these Red Sea divers and these selfless Bedouins in Dahab will continue to do the work.

A beautiful nature-strewn city in South Sinai, Dahab is famous for its Blue Hole diving spot, golden sands, serene water, diverse wildlife and towering mountains. It is the place where tourists go climbing rocks, ride camels, ride horses, cycle, snorkel, kite surf, sail, and windsurf. As it began to receive more backpacking tourists, who themselves are impermanent fixtures in the scenery, there came a consequent explosion in the number of left-behind single-use plastics, a stinging irony: single-use plastics also happen to be impermanent fixtures. Only doing greater damage to the environment. Therefore, Dahab natives will hope that this initiative is the mitigating strategy advertised.

By Caleb Ajinomoh.

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