A project for the world’s largest sustainable region has been announced and is expected to include all the things that one would expect in a sustainable development: renewable energy, environmentally responsible town planning, micro-banking, education, and biofuels. Where? The ancient city of Cyrene, Libya.

The ancient Greeks developed the area of Cyrene around 631 BC. It thrived for almost 1,000 years, passing from the Greeks to the Romans, only to fall prey to an earthquake around 365 AD. Needless to say, this is an extremely important site from a historical perspective; UNESCO recognized this and listed it as a World Heritage Site in 1982.

The plan is to create an area of sustainable development around the 2,046 square miles area, known appropriately enough as the Green Mountain. To do this, Saif al-Islam has created the Green Mountain Conservation and Development Authority, which is led by none other than Sir Norman Foster. While it’s too early to announce concrete details, initial concepts already speak of an integrated development that promises to protect this historical site, as well as Libya’s 136 mile-long undeveloped Mediterranean coastline, one of the few remaining undeveloped coastlines in the world.

If the project ever gets off the ground – and there’s no guarantee that it will – it will take certain measures to protect development along the coastline. For instance, instead of building right on the coastline and wrecking the natural habitat, developments will be pushed farther back. Also, any town planning will tightly minimize automobile use and urban sprawl, and zones of forest and agriculture will be spread around to create buffer zones.

There are, of course, contradictions. The first projects are already being planned, and they are, naturally, extremely exclusive hotels. Aside from the pros and cons of tourism, there is no airport as of yet or the infrastructure to support such activity. Still, in many ways, they are ambitious plans.

“This is one of the most beautiful and little-known landscapes on Earth. We’ve been give a unique challenge: to establish a sustainable blueprint for future development which will be sensitive to the history of the Green Mountain and to its conservation,” said Lord Foster.

+ Libya unveils bold ecotourism project
+ Foster + Partners