25 African Countries Vow to Protect the Environment From Tourism

Tourism is both an economic boost and a threat to Africa’s environment.

Nov 17 2016, 12:00pm

Seychelles. Image: Didier Baertschiger/Flickr

Resorts and safaris are pleasing to the tourist eye, but they can be a big drain on the environment.

Last week, 25 African nations signed an agreement to promote sustainable tourism last week at the COP 22 conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. The list also included Kenya, Seychelles', the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan and Tunisia.

Alain St. Ange, tourism minister in Seychelles', said his island country will work to protect its native environment while growing the tourism economy. About half of Seychelles' land is protected national parks, and the nation has limited the number of hotels and hostels that can be built to "ensure that tourism growth does not come at the expense of the environment," he said in a statement.

"The challenge we have now is to work together with industry players from the whole region to ensure we are all on the same page," Ange said.

Tourism threatens Africa's environment through construction of hotels, trash pollution of beaches, and increased smog from vehicle traffic. That's to say nothing of trophy hunting of big game, a controversial practice where hunters can pay to kill a designated rhino or lion. The practice is largely the primary revenue stream for animal conservation and anti-poaching protections in African nations.

Read more: Elephant Poaching Is Costing African Countries $25 Million Every Year

Kenya has protected its environment from the impacts of tourism, largely through the private sector. Some hotels hire environmental officers, and the Severin Sea Lodge is among the hotels to have an on-site water purification plant that cleans wastewater to a high standard so fish aren't impacted. According to the UN, the Kenyan government has collaborated in several public-private partnerships to protect the environment amidst a growing tourist economy.

Some researchers have noted that countries like the Seychelles go farther than just preserving environmental resources for tourism purposes—they consider a clean environment to be a Constitutional right.

The nation's constitution, enacted in 1993, states citizens have a right to a clean environment. "The State recognises the right of every person to live in and enjoy a clean, healthy and ecologically balanced environment," the constitution states. It goes on to give citizens the right to take measures to promote the protection of the environment, ensure sustainable socio-economic development of the nation and to promote public awareness of the need for environmental protection.

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