Red Sea oil spill nothing new – Bikya Masr

June 22nd, 2010

CAIRO: Watching the news pour out of Egypt over the oil slick that has already hit some 100 kilometers of beaches on the Eastern Red Sea coast is shocking. Where were they last summer when oil spilled out of an offshore oil rig?

According to Egypt’s Environment Ministry, oil spillage is common in the Red Sea because of the archaic equipment used in the area. Oil regularly seeps out and has already devastated much of the marine life in the Red Sea.

Dolphins, according to people I have spoken with at the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency (HEPCA) have said that dolphins have already begun to migrate farther south in an effort to avoid areas that have become unsustainable for life.

While it is good to see the international media report on the dangerous results of the current oil spill and the Egyptian government’s efforts to “cover” it up, greater detail and need for more reporting on the causes of the oil spill are needed. This is not the Egyptian government’s fault – at least not their sole responsibility – it is in fact the oil companies who refuse to change their ways of drilling.

Look at the Gulf of Mexico. British Petroleum (BP) has been at fault for the massive, most certainly devastating environmental impact that the oil spill has caused and yet we continue to look and accuse government’s for their reactions to such events. It is wrong of the media to crack down on governments over their “reaction” to such incidents. Instead, our attention should be focused on the companies who continue to avoid inspection, regulation and any measures that would curtail their already gigantic profits. This is unacceptable.

Much of the talk here has been on the Egyptian government’s attempts to avoid revealing the oil spill to the public for fear of losing tourists to the country. Certainly there is some blame and Cairo is not without fault in this regard, but the reality is the main focus should be on the marine life in the area; and not just as a result of this oil spill. Oil slicks are common in the Red Sea and the Egyptian government does an adequate job of cleaning them up quite rapidly.

Last year, another slick caused miles of damage to coastlines on the Red Sea, but the government moved quickly and within one week, it was for the most part cleaned. Still, the conversation doesn’t center around the loss of life – maybe because it isn’t human and irrelevant to many.

But, according to HEPCA, coral reefs, fish and mammals living in the Red Sea are being devastated to the point of no return. 10 years ago, Sharm el-Sheikh was a top diving destination. Today, it is dark, murky and without beauty as a result of oil and environmental degradation as a result of hotels dumping waste into the water. This needs to change and the current oil spill is a means to discuss how to better reboot the Red Sea or forever lose it.

Any oil spill is horrible and must be reported, understood and condemned. The media, including Bikya Masr, must do a better job of holding these multinational corporations to account for their wrongdoing. We can no longer sit idly by and watch as our planet continues to be destroyed by individuals who care only about the present profit earnings of the most recent quarter. We must take a stand and speak out against simply reporting and start campaigns to adjust the framework that the media currently work in. People care and through the dissemination of blame – the oil companies and those who support them – we as a global community can begin to right the wrongs of the environmental destruction at the hands of these companies and people.