19/06/2015 Updating Environmental Sensitivity Maps for the Egyptian Coast

PERSGA is working with the Government of Egypt on the preparation of regional contingency plans to be used in the event of pollution from oil or other harmful substances. Part of this work involves an on-ground project to update maps of environmentally sensitive areas along the coastline.

PERSGA on-ground projects are small projects that give rapid returns.They are suggested by the individual PERSGA member states and implemented by PERSGA in collaboration with the national focal points.

The existing environmental sensitivity maps for the Egyptian coast form part of the National Egyptian Contingency Plan for responding to oil pollution.The updating process is being conducted with the full cooperation of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) and the field surveys are being conducted by national experts from EEAA and the marine protected areas sector.

Initially a series of preparatory meetings were held to assess the existing records and to develop the forms to be used to collect new data during field surveys. At these meetings the schedule for the work plan was agreed, boundaries set for the various shoreline segments, and sectors prioritized for scanning.

The inaugural meeting took place on Monday, 18th May 2015.An advanced, open source, Geographic Information System called QGIS was introduced. This software package is both free of charge and easy to use for developing maps.It includes most of necessary functions available in other more expensive GIS packages.

A detailed review for the forms to be used in the field during surveys was undertaken. These forms allow the EEAA national experts to identify the areas that are most sensitive to marine pollution. The criteria for preparing an Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) and the methodology for allocating an index to each beach sector were discussed and agreed by the workshop participants. National experts working in the field provided valuable input to the discussions on the field survey process and modifications were subsequently applied to the questionnaires and forms.

The coastline was divided into four main sectors composed of 205 five-kilometer segments running from the border with Sudan in the south to the north of the city of Hurghada.

On the second day of the meeting all participants and trainees went out to the field.The group split into two teams. One used four wheel drive vehicles to reach an environmentally sensitive area in a marine protected area near Hurghada. The second used a boat to reach "AbuShar"island. Each team then split into smaller groups of four to five persons and collected field records, took photos and entered the data onto paper forms and into hand held computers. All the groups returned to the EMARSGA office and presented their field work for discussion and finalization.

The Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden