The Government of Egypt is planning to upgrade and expand the city of St. Katherine, and the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities (MHUUC) has prepared a Master Plan in this regard. However, potential unsustainable urban and tourism-related development in this area of great ecological and cultural significance can have a major negative impact on surrounding ecosystems and therefore can become a major threat to biodiversity, local culture and tradition. The “Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Tourism Development” (MBTD) Project is supporting the MHUUC in the development of a sustainable and environmentally-friendly Master Plan.
In this regard, Environics has been commissioned by MBTD to prepare a SEA for the proposed development.
Accordingly, Environics has defined the Area of Influence (AoI) of the proposed development and assessed the Saint Katherine upgrade and expansion Master Plan versus the area bio-physical and socio-cultural sensitivities to highlight potential constraints and inconsistencies of the development, as well as to provide recommendations for the integration of the environmental and social dimensions to the Master Plan.
Environics focused on the project components taken into account by the urban planner interacting with and potentially affecting the environmental and social features of the area; the scope of work encompassed:
Review of the preliminary Master Plan provided by the urban planner, as well as other secondary data provided by MBTD;
A review of the legal and regulatory framework to which the project should abide;
A thorough desktop review of reports and studies describing the bio-physical and socio-economic environment of the Saint Katherine Protected Area complemented by an analysis of satellite images;
Investigating dominant trends and dynamics based on the advent of development, through the analysis of historical satellite imagery, as well as remote interviews with local key informants; and
Identification of an exhaustive list of stakeholders as well as their proposed representatives.
Based on these activities, Environics developed a map of the project’s footprint and its AoI through defining the extent of potential impacts related to the development and its associated facilities, whenever possible.
A detailed analysis of the environmental and socio-cultural features falling within the project’s AoI was carried out and the sensitivities that could be affected by the development have been highlighted. Accordingly, a map showing the entire set of sensitivities (physical, ecological and socio-cultural) was developed.
Following the preparation of the sensitivity map, a Master Plan assessment has been carried out to include:
A SWOT analysis focused on sensitivity aspects, to complement the one developed by the urban planners; and
An assessment of the likely impacts of the proposed development to disclose potential impacts that can be mitigated and those eventually requiring a modification to the Master Plan.
Accordingly, a set of recommendations has been provided, including: suitable mitigation measures; planning recommendations; and criteria for project components.