Dungonab Still Safe â€¦But How Long Can It Last..
PORT SUDAN, Dungonab, (Sudanow.info)- The protected marine parks of Dungonab and Sanganeib have been chosen because of their environment safety for a scientific programme aimed at monitoring and catching shark and manta rays. The programme has started but changes have also occurred in the region, threatening its safety and tranquility. The question one asks is how long can it remain safe? Sudanow.info Senior Reporter investigates the issues and writes back:-
I entered Dungonab small village, within the protected marine park of the bay that is named after it. The village’s wooden lodgings are spread a few meters away from the turquoise crystal clear water of the bay of clean white sand. The village was quite calm. There are few activities on sight, except for the winds that hurl and tussle, and dog play everything about.
I was wondering why the village was as desolate and quiet as if it were a graveyard. An officer of the park who was escorting me knocked at the door of a house he seemed to be familiar with and a welcoming villager soon showed up and he seemed to realize my astonishment.
Wind of Change
Equally puzzled, Eissa Mahmoud Ahmed, said it was the wind which they were not used to during this time of the year. This was not the first time, it blew several times, imprisoning them within lodgings and preventing them from going out into the sea to fish and earn a living. He said they did not know the reason but said it might have been caused by rains that fell somewhere. Even the women did not like the wind because, to their chagrin, it kept men at home, he laughed.
However, it was not only the climatic change , the reason for which they know not, that worries them, although it adversely influences their life, but there is something else they recognize and feel even if it has not yet occurred, because of its disastrous impact on them, according to Ahmed.
The Heart of the World
I didn’t know much about this project and it wasn’t the reason for my visit to the village. I came to get to know the village and its contribution to a scientific project for monitoring and watching movements of the shark and manta rays in the bay. When I approached a villager to ask him about something, they all gathered to talk to me, thinking that I wanted to talk about the project.
I was astonished with their lack of information about it and their fear that it might adversely affect their life. I realized how mistaken the people in charge are for not allowing participation in the development plans by the simple indigenous people who lived in the region in peace and harmony with its nature and who suddenly realize that there is somebody intending to change their way of life altogether without informing them. How mistaken those officials are!!
Dungonab Bay and Mukwar Island Protected Marine Park:
This is one of two Sudanese protected marine parks on the Red Sea which are rich in an amazing series of aquatic life including the smallest creatures and sea fish up to the shark which comes at the top of the big sea animals, according to Mohamed Yusuf Abdul Salam, the independent advisor of the maritime Equipe Cousteau and Deep Today organizations, which operate in the Sudan, and former manger of Sanganeib protected marine park.
The two parks were examined by these two organizations for implementation of programmes for observing and monitoring the sharks and manta rays, which are threatened of extinction in all seas of the planet, to compile information on their behavior, how they survive and multiply with a view to protecting those species globally.
Major Nasr al-Dinn Mohamed al-Amin, of the General Administration of the Wildlife Protection Police and General Manager of the Red Sea protected marine parks, said the park is 2,808 square kilometers, of a length of 70 kilometers and horizontal width of 30 kilometers and is about 157 kilometers east of the city of Port Sudan. It encompasses two villages with a population of 300 families of 3,000 persons who all earn a living on fishing in shallow waters, using traditional implements.
It was recognized as a protected marine park on 13 October 2004 due to its international and national importance and because it possesses a diversity of aquatic wildlife and is the home of rare aquatic species globally threatened of extinction such as the manta rays, sharks and sea turtles.
Moreover, there are big and diverse gatherings of coral reefs which have not been affected by the environment disasters which have influenced many coral reefs worldwide. They have not either been affected by factors of the human tourist pressure. There are also different kinds of coral reef fish and other aquatic creatures. It is considered a potential coral refugee, bearing in mind the changes that occur in the global climate. It is a vast natural bay that hosts pearl shells that multiply naturally on the Red Sea.
In addition, there are 20 islands of different sizes and formations which are highly important for marine and wildlife. Those islands also offer home for both indigenous and immigrant kinds of birds and places for sea turtles to lay eggs. The existence of reptiles and other living creatures on Meteep Island (Jebel Abu al-Dood) puzzled the researchers about their survival and their feeding system.
There are stretched expanses of base grass which is important as food for small fish and other aquatic animals like the manta rays. There are also Mangrove forests which are important as home for many marine species, small fish and birds. The region also includes a number of straits and beautiful natural anchorages such as Khor Shan’ab and Kafial.
First Lieutenant Mustafa, of the Park’s Administration, says the rare coral reefs, which still maintain their natural characteristics, are considered like the Amazon forest in South America which contains all environments and sea animals. The animals of the Sudanese coast have remained unaffected, Mustafa said, adding that what is being carried out by the Administration is only a preemptive measure for retaining rarity.
The Sea is our Life and Our Food
Eissa Mahmoud Ahmed says he is a fisherman like all other Dungonab inhabitants; even the shepherds of camels and goats practice fishing and the women help in making nets and some of them fling them in the shallow sea waters.
He added that they catch different kinds of fish other than the sharks which are present in large quantities and of various kinds which they do not catch in compliance with a ban imposed by the park authorities two years ago.
Fishermen Mohamed Hamid Eissa, Mohamed Ali and Abdullah Odeed, say the urban development and valuable tourism industry may be useful to us, particularly the Heart of the World project that was installed on our island, particularly as the fishing has become back-breaking and expensive. We go on a fishing trip that sometimes take a full week and catch only 150 to 200 kilos of fish, the fishermen added.
Ali Wajeh, the Omdah of Mohamed Goul villages, agrees with his neighbors, saying: “All people of the village practice fishing… the sea is our life and our (source of) food … we don’t have any other source… we don’t take from it excessively and for this reason we don’t fear any change on its part but what we fear is the change that may occur as a result of the growing tourism and investment … particularly the tourist Heart of the World project on Mukwar and Jebel Mugursam. This is an important part of the Park where we catch shells for export … We used to set out on voyages for a whole day or week to get 20 to 40 kilos.”
Mohamed Ali Dukun, chairman of the Cooperative Society and leader of Mohamed Goul fishermen, said: “We have 300 fishermen and 90% of their catch is taken out of the village which consumes t6he remaining 10%. “ Dukun noted that Mukwar Island and Jebel Mugursam are “very important to us because they protect us against the outrageous sea and we take them as a refuge to protect us against the waves during fishing and we also use them as a resting place. We are not against urban development and tourism but we are concerned with our living.”
When negotiations began on the purchase of Mukwar to transform it into a five-star tourist island with hotels, towers, restaurants and an airport built on it, “we were prevented from approaching it and our future remains unknown,” Dukun said.
“We know that the quantities of fish decrease with the growing construction and movement on and around the Island, in addition to the increasing numbers of tourists who practice diving. We also fear the big fishing boats which come from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen,” the fishermen leader said.
He said a number of officials of the project visited and told us that a hospital would be built within t6he project and that they would offer us 50 SDG as a wage for each day in addition to two meals for work in the project which would provide jobs for the villagers.
Dukun went on to say the Island offers grass and trees for our animals to feed on.”We don’t know much about the project… we see people come and go and we submitted a memorandum to the government demanding alternative and rights, but until now we have not received a response… even the popular government in the villages knows nothing,” Dukun said.
However, fisherman Mohamed Ahmed said the project would develop the village. There will be a bridge linking it with the Island, Ahmed said, adding that they would miss their protection centers and rest-house in the Island. He said they were not satisfied with the first offer that was made to them and disagreed on it with representatives of the project’s proprietors and therefore nothing has started until now.
The Director of the marine protected parks said their plan for running the park is based on dividing it into areas of fishing, no-fishing, diving and other tourist activities. This plan comes in concert with the administrative plan that was made by the regional organization for conservation of the environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden which bans unlicensed fishing, the official said. He added that the traditional fishing does not impact the park like the “sea sweepers”, which are big fishing ships that mostly come from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The inhabitants of the Park exercise control over their Park because they are the main beneficiaries of it and its resources, the official said. Guardsmen from among the inhabitants report on transgression on the Park by regional boats and citizens, he added.
He said they are mainly worried with the intense tourist season which begins in October and lasts in June bringing in about 8,000 tourists in the two parks each year. Although they do not fish, the tourists spoil the coral reefs for absence of anchorage for the diving boats, the official said.
He explained that Sanganeib Park is 12 square kilometers in area, that is, 6 kilometers long and 2 kilometers wide. Declared a protected park in 1990, Sanganeib is a coral island rich in coral reefs. It is of a rare circular shape, the only one of its kind in the Red Sea, with a wide aquatic variety of 250 species of small fish, rare fish, decoration fish, sharks and dolphins which are found on the entrance of the Park, according to the official who added that there is also the whale shark which began to diminish as it is being caught for its fins.
He said diving is the prevalent activity in Sanganeib is regarded internationally as the most famous and favorite diving site because it is uninhabited and has no tourist activities other than regular visits by the citizens that occur twice a month during which they do not exercise diving. There is a lighthouse that was built in 1950 to guide ships and has become part of the international heritage, the Protected Marine Parks Director said. While fishing is banned, certain sites are set for diving, like the administration method applied in Dungonab Park, he said.
Any major tourist activity, like the Heart of the World project on Mukwar Island and Jebel Mugursam, could destroy the environment and resources of the Sanganeib Island, while the thick turbidity could kill the maritime life, according to the official.
He said they have no knowledge of this big project which he said is a federal, rather than a state one, and, besides, Chapter Two of the Wildlife Conservation Act permits establishment of any tourist activity within the protected marine parks on condition that a study should be conducted on the environmental impact on this project. He added that they do not known, either whether such a study was conducted or would be conducted or not. The proposal on this project was behind the delay in declaration of the Park as one of the international heritage sites, the Director said.
Dr. Abdullah Nasir al-Awad, Director of the Red Sea Fish Research Station, affirmed that the Dungonab and Sanganeib protected marine parks are still clean and lively and are free of pollution and, unlike other international marine parks, none of their coral reefs is broken
The Sudanese coasts are characterized with abundant vivid unbroken coral reefs with a growth potential, Dr. Awad said many people believe that coral reefs are inanimate and do not grow; this is wrong, coral reefs grow if they break.
Excessive tourism may be destructive to the coasts and construction on them may also adversely affect the marine environment, said the official. In order to aver this, a study and continued assessment of the impact of any activity should be conducted so that do not lose our natural resources and do not miss the possibility of utilizing those resources like the majority of the countries, Dr. Awad said.
The Professor of Fisheries and Maritime Bio-chemistry of Oceanographic College of the Red Sea University, Salah al-Dinn Yagoub, said an extensive investment activity in the Sudanese coasts or within the protected parks may destroy the fish feeding system, posing a major threat to the fish population.
He suggests as a solution an environmental feasibility study for a proposed project and if any harm is expected, supplementary environment-friendly investments should be contemplated; but if the harm is expected to be tremendous, the project proposed in the specific site must be dropped and another site or project must be selected. Any change in the sea followed by a change on the land affects life on both, he said.
Maritime botanist and Deputy Dean of the Oceanographic College, Dr. Sumaya Khidir, said quite simply, proper planning may make any project friendly to the environment. For this reason, she went on, concerned specialists should be invited for participation in determination of the manner in which the projects are to be implemented for utilization of the resources for the welfare of the local communities. The main question is how to plan and implement those projects, Dr. Khidir said.
The sea is bounteous and can fetch billions through tourist investment and other ventures but this depends on whether or not such projects come in the framework of a strategic plan for exploitation of the resources, said Dr. Khidir.
She said they have no idea of the Heart of the World project as it has not been presented to them for conducting an environmental study and assessment. “We have just heard of it,” Dr. Khidir said, adding: “it was discussed at the political and economic levels. The concerned scientific institutions should be invited to bid for studying it.”
Nasr al-Dinn Ahmed Awad, Director-General of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in the Red Sea State, said the two protected marine parks a rare marine diversity which until now retains its natural purity. 80% of the proceeds of tourism in the Red Sea come from diving as the area is rich in coral waters which deserve watching.
He said his Red Sea government is concerned with retaining this diversity and resources and they work with numerous organizations for raising awareness of the local communities about the importance of those resources. There is a full plan for utilization of the Red
Sea coasts in tourism and development and welfare of the local communities, said the Ministry’s Director-General.
The Heart of the World is a full-fledged tourist project but is a federal one and until now it has not been presented to the government of the State, said the Director-General. “If it is presented to us, we will make of it an economic project that respects the public interest and environmental resources of the region, he said.
The Director of Administration of Tourism in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Osman al-Imam, said the Heart of the World project the foundation stone of which was placed by President Omar al-Beshir in November 2012 on Mukwar Island in Dungonab protected marine park, is sort of a full-fledged tourist city that contains a chain of luxury hotels, diving centers, sports grounds, cafeterias and a small airport and the total construction cost is 20 billion dollars. Imam, however, said the project is still with the General Investment Organization and the execution has not yet begun no license has yet been issued to any tourist institution in the context of the project.
According to previously published information on the project, when completed, the Island host 150,000 residents, 120,000 employees, more than a monthly 90,000 visitors, 10 tourist and commercial cities linked together with advanced land and marine communication networks. It is surrounded with more than 121,400 feet of sea facades and it contains the most advanced sea port in the Middle East.
The Park contains a harbor of a capacity of more than 2,400 boats in addition to docks which can take in more than 700 big yachts in addition to an international airport that can receive large planes and can be a gateway for African and Middle Eastern airports. The project also includes industrial, media, knowledge, internet and business cities and a sports city that contains all kinds of grounds, racetracks and gold fields. The information has not made any reference to relevant environmental studies.
The investor that executes this project, the Saudi Arabian Husseiny Group, says the Park will include the world’s highest tower, though he stopped short of giving a specific figure.
The Saudi Arabian Investor, Ahmed Abdullah al-Husseiny, the President of the Group, was present at the ceremony beside President Beshir. Pictures of the project’s model show a lofty tower called “Al-Husseiny Tower” that is designed in the form of a gigantic sorghum ear.
By Ishraga Abbas,
Sudanow.info Senior Reporter
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