Last month, officials in Cyrene, Libya, unveiled a surprise PR blitz riddled with buzzwords like “sustainable” and “eco-tourism,” declaring the dawn of a new age for the formerly reclusive Mediterranean nation—one that’s apparently swathed in green.
The $3 billion project, dubbed the Green Mountain Sustainable Development Area, is an effort to “show the world that Libya has turned a corner—that they can fit into the modern world,” Cambridge University Professor George Joffe told the International Herald Tribune. The carbon-netural development zone would become the world’s first eco-region, and the ambitious plans include a national park, eco-friendly hotels, bio-fueled public transportation, organic farms, and the restoration of ancient ruins—currently in danger of dilapidation—on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Once part of the Roman Empire, Cyrene was a thriving Greek trading hub filled with temples, gymnasiums, and luxurious villas in the 7th century B.C. President Muammar el-Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, says the project has “the potential to support the local economy based on environmental and cultural tourism” in the now-impoverished African country.
The bold announcement caught IT’s attention for obvious reasons, but at least for now, we can’t help but remain a wee bit skeptical. So far, the plan exists on paper only (no word on whether the glossy publicity brochure was recycled), and as the International Herald Tribune reports, hundreds of guests were flown to a remote landing strip for the inauguration party and signing ceremony—a practice that doesn’t exactly ooze sustainability. Plus, organizers admit that the project, less than two months since conception, is only in the “vision” stage.
But ever the optimist, IT salutes Libya’s gumption. Such a comprehensive plan from the get-go to develop 1,000 miles of undeveloped coastline (between Benghazi and Tobruk) in an eco-friendly way is encouraging and inspiring, indeed.
Photo: Jeremy Ingham, www.jeremyingham.com
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