The battle to save Giftun Island from a $2 billion tourism development is undoubtedly the HEPCA project that has attracted the most public support and international media interest. Giftun Island is the jewel in Hurghada’s diving crown. At least 40% of Hurghada’s dive sites are situated off its shores, which boast more than 196 types of hard and soft corals, and almost 800 marine species. The island is also well known as the major nesting ground in the region for green turtles.
It seems ironic that in 2004, HEPCA and its fellow Red Sea NGO, the Red Sea Association for Diving and Water Sports (RSDASS) were plunged into a campaign to save Giftun Island from an Italian tourism development of apocalyptic proportions.
Without delay, a massive campaign went into action to save Giftun Island from development. Hundreds of dive boats and thousands of protestors gathered at Giftun Island on World Earth Day, clad in striking ‘Save our Giftun’ t-shirts and the back printed with ‘Not For Sale’. An online petition gathered more than 10,000 signatures, the majority of them from outside Egypt. Indeed, the campaign was deliberately focused on the international community, in order to exert considerable pressure on the government to back down from this avaricious plot.
And back down they did. Just two weeks into the campaign, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak issued a decree declaring that the Giftun Island protectorate would remain as is. The decree also stated that no further tourism development could take place on any of the Red Seas 36 major islands, of which 22 of them already protectorates, until comprehensive environmental studies are completed.
HEPCA, RSDASS and all of Giftun Island’s many supporters and fans had declared a unified victory, until the next one?