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Red Sea project partners with King Abdullah University for new conservation technology

The Red Sea Development Company and King Abdullah University of Science & Technology have developed a ground-breaking application of conservation and development planning to enhance biodiversity and conservation-priority species distributions across almost 1,300 km2 of pristine lagoon.

It is hoped the technology will pioneer a new relationship between natural resource conservation and the development of a luxury tourism destination.

The planning process coordinates multiple uses of the marine environment – energy and utilities, recreation, conservation, transportation and shipping, aquaculture and others and carefully manages the way these interact with vulnerable species and habitats to optimise goals of both conservation and development.

To inform the process, the university brought biologists, ecologists, oceanographers and modellers together with the Red Sea Development Company’s architects, engineers and master planners, to collaborate on this large-scale project planned to achieve net conservation benefits in the presence of carefully planned development.

“We will not compromise the standards that we have set for ourselves as we deliver this incredible project.

“We believe that this commitment matches the desires of our potential customers in the luxury travel market,” said John Pagano, chief executive of the Red Sea Development Company.

“Today’s luxury traveller wants to enhance, not exploit, the natural environment.

“Together we can preserve and enhance this unique treasure for future generations, and share the lessons we learn here with the world.”

Developed by King Abdullah University scientists, the planning process applies dedicated software to generate an in-depth picture of a large marine area, allowing for an unprecedented level of insight into the potential environmental impacts of development and the opportunities to optimize conservation benefits.

This will help ensure that a network of protected sites within the Al Wajh lagoon, which supports a variety of endangered species, will be unharmed – and actively enhanced – by the development.

Once collected and analysed, the data obtained was key to informing the Red Sea Development Company’s design to meet goals of both conservation and development, ensuring marine and coastal habitats remain healthy and biodiversity is conserved while supporting sustainable development of luxury tourism.

The master plan for the luxury destination will now deliver a net positive conservation benefit of up to 30 per cent within the next two decades.

The Red Sea Project, one of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030’s giga-project development initiatives, will deliver a unique luxury tourism experience of unparalleled diversity, while enhancing the destination’s extraordinary natural wonders.

It will be created around several unique and diverse treasures: an archipelago of more than 90 islands surrounded by thriving coral reefs; dramatic desert canyons and dormant volcanoes; and heritage sites.

“Our commitment is clear,” said Pagano.

“We will partner with the best local and global organisations to ensure our development is guided by credible research and environmental institutions, allowing us to deliver an unparalleled luxury experience without compromising the natural environment.”

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