STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF THE LAKE QARUN PROTECTED AREA IN FAYOUM, EGYPT

  • Author:
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  • Send To:
    Egyptian Government, Minister of Antiquities, Minister of Environment, Minister of Tourism, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Governor Fayoum
  • Sponsored By:
    NATURE CONSERVATION EGYPT (NCE)
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In December 2010 Egypts Tourist Development Authority (TDA) sold 650 acres in the Lake Qarun Protected Area in Fayoum to the Amer Group, the Egyptian real estate developer responsible for the massive Porto Marina and Porto Sokhna tourist developments. The Amer Group paid a megre sum for this land (an annual fee of USD 0.01 per square metre). This is the first development of such huge proportions to be authorized in an Egyptian protected area.

Amer Group Chairman Mansour Amer is a former member of Mubaraks National Democratic Party and reportedly has close ties to former president Hosni Mubarak. Since the fall of the Mubarak regime, many improper land deals have come under scrutiny. The former Minister of Tourism, Zuhair Garanah, is now serving a five-year prison sentence for corruption, and other government figures, prominent businessmen, and even the TDA itself, are currently under investigation.

Gebel Qatrani, where the development is to take place, is a desert area of outstanding natural beauty north of Lake Qarun. It has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it contains one of the worlds most complete fossil records of terrestrial primates and marshland mammals and remains critical to our understanding of mammalian--and humanevolution. Just last year, excavations there revealed the complete fossil remains of a prehistoric whale, new to science. In addition to its priceless fossil deposits, Gebel Qatrani is brimming with other prehistoric and pharaonic treasures, including the worlds most ancient paved road.

Porto Fayoum and other planned tourism developments in this area will also destroy bird habitats around Lake Qarun, which is a BirdLife International Important Bird Area (IBA).

The head of the Ministry of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass sanctioned the building in this area, despite its cultural, scientific and global importance. The former Governor of Fayoum supported the project against recommendations of experts and donors. Officials at Egypts Ministry of Environment opposed the developments, but were unable to stop the tourism projects, including the half-completed asphalt road around the lake.

If it goes ahead, Porto Fayoum will wreak untold destruction to this priceless natural and cultural heritage site, valuable to Fayoum, Egypt and the world.

Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE) and the signatories of this petition are calling on the Egyptian government to:

1) Rescind this illicit land deal and return this land to the Egyptian people.

2) Abolish all TDA jurisdiction in the Lake Qarun Protected Area and return the land to the Ministry of Environments Nature Conservation Sector, responsible for Egypts Protected Areas.

3) Declare the northern part of Lake Qarun Egypt's to be first UNESCO Geopark.

4) Take steps to protect this areas rich natural and cultural heritage by developing the Geoparks management and infrastructure, turning it into a genuine ecotourism attraction for Fayoum oasis and Egypt.

5) Undertake the necessary measures and procedures to declare the Gebel Qatrani Geopark as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to bring recognition to this area of global importance.