Coastal region and small island papers 14
5. Concluding remarks
The need for integrated coastal management
The coastal and submerged archaeological sites of Alexandria are of worldwide significance and they represent an important tourism resource for the country. However, they are threatened by the continued disposal of urban wastewater into the sea and coastline alterations. There is an urgent need for an integrated coastal management programme to both protect and develop the on-land and submerged sites. Essential components of such a programme include legal provisions for all underwater sites, co-operation between the decision-makers who sometimes have conflicts of interest, and the implementation of wise practices which must encompass human and cultural dimensions.
In order to establish the legal status of underwater archaeological sites, amendments have to be made to Law No 4, 1994, for Protection of the Environment. The Supreme Council of Antiquities should be mandated at the same level as other agencies to protect the underwater archaeological sites and their environment.
Several agencies are involved with the coastal zone; these include the Governorate of Alexandria, the Alexandria General Organization for Sanitary Drainage, the Coastal Protection Agency, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the Egyptian Navy and the Ministry of Tourism. There is little communication and co-ordination between them.
A mechanism for mutual understanding and co-ordination between policy and decision-makers on the one hand, and scientists and archaeologists on the other, is called for. A permanent inter-sectoral planning and management board can provide this link. This board would be mandated, among other things, to assess the environmental impact including the archaeological risk, of any proposed governmental or private development project. The guiding concept is that the protection of coastal zone resources is an integral part of the development priorities of the country.
Once the underwater archaeological museum has been developed, and the area has been cleared of polluting sediments and the city’s wastewater is properly treated, Alexandria will become a centre of cultural tourism. However, ill-managed, tourism can cause the deterioration of its own assets and of the environment. If properly integrated with the environment, however, tourism can become a powerful force for sustainability. Two prerequisites for the integration of tourism with the environment are partnerships amongst stakeholders, and awareness among all concerned of the benefits of sustainability. Raising awareness among the local population, the stakeholders, the tourists and the public authorities requires on-going training, targeted information and dialogue. Representatives of the tourism servicing sector, the public authorities and environmental specialists and advocates need to meet regularly in an inter-sectoral framework to manage, plan and make decisions.
In order to ensure that cultural tourism can continue in the foreseeable future without damaging the quality of the environment, its cumulative impacts, as well as the impacts of other anthropogenic activities have to be monitored on a continuous basis.
Alexandria’s Eastern Harbour is a commercial and recreational centre for the local population. It is a fishing port with facilities for maintaining and building boats; it is also a marina and has recreational centres on its shores. As such it provides a livelihood and entertainment for the local population. The needs of this community will have to be considered within any integrated management plan. The human dimension is an especially important component of sustainable development, since reluctance of the local population to accept new developments can produce negative feedback, diminishing tourist satisfaction and lowering productivity.
The next stage
The developments realized in the years following the 1997 international workshop are the result of fruitful co-operation between the Supreme Council of Antiquities and UNESCO. They represent slow but undeniable progress towards the sustainable development of the underwater archaeological sites at Qait Bey and the Eastern Harbour, although much remains to be done.
Man-made threats to the archaeological sites are of greater concern than the threats caused by natural processes. The Alexandrian archaeological sites have not yet been inscribed on the World Heritage List. In the continued absence of national and international legal status, the sites will always remain vulnerable to hasty and ill-advised decisions.
The international workshop recommended that the University of Alexandria organize special courses at graduate and undergraduate levels in submarine archaeology and sustainable coastal zone management. The November 1999 workshop also recommended that the university consider the possibility and desirability of establishing a UNESCO chair to promote studies and research in underwater archaeology and sustainable coastal zone management. These suggestions need to be followed-up.
A major constraint at this stage is the absence of a comprehensive project document, which would justify the project, formulate its immediate and long-term objectives and bring to light its cultural and socio-economic returns.