Following the ‘Arab Spring’ revolution in 2011 – of which the largest island in North Africa, covering 514 km2, remained largely unscathed – Tunisia and other Mediterranean countries are still in the process of reconciling the social inequalities and regional disparities, and reconstructing their cities. Djerba has been home to a variety of ethnic groups that have co-existed in peace for centuries, from Berbers, Arabs and Black African, to Jews, Christians and Muslims in a region torn by religious extremism; a field survey carried out between 1995 and 2000 revealed over 400 archaeological sites.
Due to the particularly mild Saharan climate, the soil is particularly fertile in Djerba. But since 25% of annual rainfall occurs in October, an irrigation and piped water supply system was recently developed and distributed across the island.
For the first time, Tunisia participated in the “World Smart City Forum 2017”, which was hosted by Barcelona and also attended by United Smart Cities, to promote the recent national program “Smart Tunisia” and showcase the Tunisian talent in computer engineering and ICT.
Due to its mild climate and rich culture, Djerba is dependent on the tourism industry. Tourism plays an important, undervalued role in sustainable development, especially by policy-makers. As global tourism increases, carbon-neutral fuels will need to be put in place to circumvent the resulting air transport emissions.
Hence the first international conference on Climate Change and Tourism took place in Djerba 2003, recommending the adoption of the UN Agenda 21 principles. Nevertheless, the industry appears to be acclimatizing to mitigation and adaptation strategies as slowly as consumers’ preference to travel green.
A major burden to the population and biotic environment are the strained, hazardous toxic landfill sites that have been polluting air and water since 2011, following the Jasmine revolution; Tunisia’s single hazardous waste-treatment plant is located in Jradou. Furthermore, waste is not being separated, hence residents suffer health implications from air and water being contaminated by the industrial, chemical, household and medical waste. A study assessed that the greatest challenges in terms of pollution are: Polluted drinking water and inaccessibility, cleanliness, and garbage disposal.
Predominated by SMEs, the industry presents countless opportunities in technological development. Despite a relatively diversified economy, it is dependent on the exploitation of limited natural resources. The UNECA speculates that public-private partnerships are needed to promote eco-innovation, as an essential element for the development of green economy. The national innovation system is fully funded by the State Challenges remain in the areas of industrial wastewater management, waste energy recovery, renewable energy development, promoting ecotourism, eco-innovation, education and training.
Tunisia now requires a new development model that integrates the green economy.
In 2004, the ASSIDJE (Association pour la Sauvegarde de l'Ile de Djerba ) constructed the “Observatory of the Sustainable Development in Djerba”, measuring environmental and developmental indicators. The participation of indigenous people was vital for this project as a source of information.
The energy sector has been a challenging area in the recent development of Tunisia, as energy consumption has been growing at 6% per annum – not least by the tourism industry. Djerba and four other cities have been selected for the national strategy “Tunisian Solar Plan”, which will install photovoltaic (PV) solar power plants between 2014 and 2030. With an investment of 4 billion Dinars (EUR 1,4bn; USD 1,6bn), Tunis hopes to generate 30% of energy from renewable sources, such as PV, wind and CSP, aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change through sustainable development.
Whilst climate change and environmental challenges are being acknowledged and faced, there are still substantive economic, political, social and security challenges that remain, prior to achieving inclusive growth, good governance and sustainable development.