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Fri 13 Mar 2020 02:11 AM

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Why the sky's the limit for Saudi's Red Sea tourism mega project

Red Sea Development Company seeks to become the largest certified Dark Sky Reserve in the world

Why the sky's the limit for Saudi's Red Sea tourism mega project

John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company.

The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), the developer behind one of the world's most ambitious tourism initiatives in Saudi Arabia, has announced plans to become the largest certified Dark Sky Reserve in the world.

It is seeking an accreditation that recognises areas with an exceptional quality of starry nights and a commitment to protecting the nocturnal environment.

TRSDC has awarded a contract to Cundall, an international consultancy providing engineering, design and sustainable solutions, to develop a lighting strategy that would provide enough lighting for safe movement around the site, while meeting the stringent International Dark Sky criteria.

“We are proud to announce our intention to become the first full-scale destination in the Middle East to pursue this unique accreditation, intended to safeguard the natural environment and allow guests to marvel at the beauty of the night sky,” said John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company.

“Over the centuries, explorers, trade caravans and pilgrims have used the night sky to navigate across our region. Dark Sky accreditation will allow our visitors to enjoy the same stunning night-time panoramas that guided and inspired those historical travelers. We are proud to become part of a worldwide movement dedicated to restoring mankind’s intimate relationship with the stars.”

According to a study for Science Advances, it is estimated that the Milky Way is no longer fully visible to one-third of humanity — including 60 percent of Europeans and 80 percent of Americans.

Artificial light from cities has created a permanent "skyglow" at night, obscuring our view of the stars.

TRSDC said it recognises the threat of light pollution and the impact it has on the environment and resident species like the critically endangered hawksbill turtle.

“The night sky at the site is already at a very high level of quality and beautiful to experience, full of interesting textures and powerful contrasts. Away from city lights, the splash of the Milky Way is spellbinding, stretching from one horizon to the other,” said Andrew Bissell, director of Light4, Cundall.

He said Cundall will work with the engineering and development teams at The Red Sea Development Company over a six-month period to review the existing project design and advise on possible measures to reduce light pollution.

This month, the team will record the baseline condition, surveying the existing lighting equipment and installation details on all existing assets including building-mounted general lighting, feature lighting, landscape lighting and street lighting.

A Lighting Management Plan will be produced which will describe improvement works throughout the existing lighting at the destination and inform the lighting design for each of the new assets, including hotels, the airport and residential properties. An application will then be made to achieve dark sky reserve status for the entire destination.

Once accredited, The Red Sea Project will join more than 100 locations around the world that have won dark sky certification.

TRSDC was established to drive the development of The Red Sea Project, a luxury tourism destination that will set new standards in sustainable development and position Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map.

The project will be developed over 28,000 sq km of pristine land on Saudi Arabia’s west coast and includes a vast archipelago of more than 90 islands. The destination also features mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes and ancient cultural and heritage sites. It will include hotels, residential properties, leisure, commercial and entertainment amenities, as well as supporting infrastructure that emphasizes renewable energy and water conservation and re-use.

Activity for the first phase of development, which focuses on enabling the infrastructure to support future work, is well underway.

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