Sunday, November 13, 2011

Morocco: Marrakech palm grove threatened by the excesses of tourism

palm tree
Palm tree
AFP - The Millennium vast palm grove of Marrakech in southern Morocco, is in great danger: water scarcity, urbanization, tourism projects and pharaonic golf course threaten the survival of this oasis, an ambitious program of conservation attempts back. Ten centuries after his birth, the palm, one of the most beautiful of Morocco, is now suffering the devastating combination of man and climate. This oasis full of hundreds of thousands of palm trees growing on 16,000 hectares, has lost 30% of its area over the past two decades, according to experts.

The introduction in recent years in the heart of the palm, and in disregard of the environment, major tourism projects, which "pump a lot" of water, promotes the degradation of the plantations and deteriorating ecological balance, they said. "Tourism projects, despite all the positives they generate, are pumping a lot. This has a negative effect on the ecological balance", told AFP Laftouhi Nour-Eddine, hydrogeologist at the Faculty of Marrakech. "Personally, I consider irrational proliferation of golf courses as a crime," he laments.

Nicknamed the "Red City" for the particular color of its houses, Marrakech is the most popular site for tourists and Moroccans. Fortunately for the walker-loving nature, the snowy mountains that surround the city and can be admired from the city center, is a picture postcard. But the city now has ten golf courses, including two in one palm, and a dozen others waiting to leave, even if they use a lot of water. The success of tourism this place that even the famous Club Med is deployed with three pools and golf inside the grove. A stark contrast to that remembers that the very name of this city, dating from 1062 and built by Youssef Ibn Tachfin, first ruler of the Almoravid dynasty, encouraged to dream.

"Marrakech" come from the Berber word "love" which means "country" and "Akouche" which means "god", giving "the land of God" or "holy land" or, as another dialect etymology "rangelands." This dream seems vanished at a time when the city has nearly a million people with an impressive number of hotels, swimming pools and a multitude of riads (traditional houses built around a courtyard). Part of riads have been bought and renovated by the Moroccan-born or wealthy foreigners, pushing the less advantaged population to the outside of the city. This sad state of affairs gives rise to feelings of bitterness and nostalgia for the people of the palm, fewer and fewer.

"The source went here where I stand. Before, there was a stream. There was a spring there, another next to it. Everywhere the place was full of sources. But the day they began to build villas and hotels, the water is gone. It's over, "indignant Boujemaa, a resident of the palm. To protect the grove, an extensive program was launched by local authorities in 2007, aiming to plant 430,000 palm trees in a year. "Thanks to the central waste water treatment, opened in 2010, and wells that are already operational, large quantities of water available," said Abdelilah Mdidech, the program director for the Protection of the palm, led by Mohammed VI Foundation for the environment. Hundreds of workers are busy day for planting new palm trees and maintain those who are aging.

"It is already in 415,292 young palms planted (...) and there, the young shoots have a good recovery, with green leaves and a good crown," says Mdidech. The latter claims to be "realistic but optimistic": "I know we can not afford, especially in water, into a verdant grove. We must be realistic." "But with this project, I can say it will be saved. I am optimistic."

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