When Change is under the Sea…
One of the very promising projects in Egypt today is ‘The Feel Project’ organized by HEPCA, an internationally recognized NGO specializing in the field of marine and land conservation. HEPCA was founded in 1992 by 12 representatives of the diving community in response to serious environmental threats affecting the Red Sea’s delicate and pristine eco-system.
FEEL “Future Egyptian Environmental Leaders” is an educational program tailored to assist young Egyptians to learn many of the necessary skills to become future leaders with a solid background of environmental awareness so they can be ready to become one of Egypt’s decision makers in the field of environment. In June 2012, HEPCA initiated FEEL to target Egyptian youth and give them an intensive conservation program in the city of Marsa Alam. Dr. Mohamed Ismail, a marine biologist is the person behind this idea.
“We wanted to raise awareness among the community that works in the Red Sea as well as tourists. We explain to people who work in the marine field like diving centers for example that if they abuse animals, they will kill them and tourists won’t come and they wont find a job”, Basma Lotfy, Project Executive tells us. HEPCA found out that problems don’t only stem from divers or marine workers but also from the local community, “If you have a good environmental background you won’t take any decision unless you get back to scientists who work in this field. That’s why when we decided doing The Feel Project, we wanted to start with youth who will grow up and hold responsibilities in the future”, Basma tells us.
The main objective isn’t only to raise awareness in the Red Sea but also in Cairo, The project targets international schools as well as public schools. They worked with Manar International School in Ismailia. The program is divided into age groups starting 10 years old. Students spend from 4 to 5 in a camp or hotel for the course. They learn introduction to diving, snorkeling, marine life, bad impact of humans, the effect of solid waste management and all related issues that fall under the umbrella of environmental awareness. The course is divided into two parts, one part is practical like snorkeling and another one in lectures based on Q&A and briefing. If students started out in year 6, they proceed with the advanced course in year 7 and so on, “It’s a non-stop project as long as people want to learn”, Basma says.
Egypt is a beautiful place to explore; especially the magical Red Sea but unfortunately not many of us value this incredible heritage that isn’t available anywhere in the world. “People are now interested in the Maldives and similar places. Did you know that we have the third dolphin house in the world for example? There isn’t much awareness and there is a perception that you are cool when you travel abroad but not cool when you explore Egypt”, Basma adds, “A flight to Marsa Allam costs 1,500 LE,you can go to Turkey for 1,200 you know, so even the government doesn’t help”.
HEPCA will open the first marine research center in Egypt in Port Ghalib very soon. It’ll be the biggest marine research center in the Middle East.
1- Samadai Dolphin House: 3 internationally recognized dolphin houses, one of them in Australia, Hawaii and the third in Egypt, Marsa Alam – Red Sea.
2- We have the largest mooring system in the Middle East, Red Sea – Egypt.
3- Marine Turtles: 5 species out of 11 can be spotted in the Red Sea – Egypt.
4- Whale Sharks: As big as bus “5 meters long”, can been spotted in the Red Sea – Egypt.
5- Solid Waste Management Station- Marsa Alam: We have the largest SWM station in Marsa Alam- Egypt. If the paper based materials in Hurghada’s waste are recycled they would save more than 500 trees, 40,000 liters of oil, 79,500 liters of water, 69m3 of landfill space and 120,000 kilowatts of energy everyday!