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Environmental Laws of Oman

Guiding Principle

The United Nations (UN) Environment Program has credited Oman with having one of the best records in environmental conservation, pollution control and maintenance of ecological balance. Oman is even stated as having one of the world’s most rigorously “green” governments. Oman’s biodiversity is catered for by varying topographic features, from a  vast arid deserts in the West, to a belt of grass and woodland in the mountainous region of the South, and  the Arabian Sea in the East.

A.  The Status of the Development (Kyoto)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) embraces a future in renewable energy; in 2009 the newly created International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) announced that its headquarters would be located in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City. The Sultanate of Oman, party to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change since January 19, 2005 led the GCC further, announcing the creation of a Designated National Authority (DNA) pursuant to its commitment as a ‘non-Annex B’ party to the Kyoto Protocol.

The creation of a DNA is a crucial step that will ultimately allow Oman to host projects, including renewable energy and clean technology projects, which reduce greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. These projects can provide an additional revenue stream to Oman from emissions credits sales in developing international carbon markets.

The Sultanate’s decision to establish a DNA presented businesses in Oman with new opportunities in the renewable energy space. While wind, biogas, geothermal and wave energy pose strong opportunities for Oman, the greatest promise is held by solar energy. According to the May 2009 report of the Omani Authority for Electricity Regulations (AER), Oman is the beneficiary of some of the highest levels of solar density in the world. If harnessed, solar energy could provide for all of Oman’s electricity needs.

Under Kyoto, non-Annex B members, primarily developing countries free from Kyoto’s carbon emission limits, are permitted to monetize investments in carbon reduction projects by developing projects under the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Projects under the CDM program are accredited by the CDM Executive Board, an implementing body of the Protocol, and result in reductions in carbon emissions, the implementation of which will earn emissions reduction credits (CERs) which can be sold on the open market to emitters in Annex B member nations.

Projects in Oman developed under the CDM must be approved by both the Oman DNA and comply with requirements established by the CDM Executive Board. Furthermore, all CDM projects must adhere to Omani law, as well as CDM rules.

The sale of CERs could facilitate the benefits posed by solar energy by helping finance such projects. According to AER, Oman’s origination of CERs could save anywhere from three to 18 percent of the operational and capital costs of solar and wind grids.

I.    Regulations on the National Level in the Sultanate of Oman

Oman’s environmental regime is primarily regulated by the Law on the Conservation of the Environment and Combating of Pollution (Royal Decree No. 114/01). Although its forerunner (of the same name − Royal Decree No. 10/82) now stands repealed, it enabled the enactment of a series of environmental legislation, most of which continues to be in force today.

Legislation for wildlife protection and nature conservation is mainly comprised of three Royal Decrees and two Ministerial Decisions:

  • The Law on the Protection of National Heritage (Royal Decree No. 6/80;
  • The Law on the Protection of Marine Biological Wealth (Royal Decree No. 53/81);
  • The Law on the Conservation of the Environment and Combating Pollution;
  • Ministerial Decision No. 4/76; and
  • Ministerial Decision No. 128/93.

Proclamations on protected areas are to be found in three Royal Decrees:

  • The Protection of Arabian Oryx (Royal Decree No. 4/94);
  • Establishing the Turtle Sanctuary (Royal Decree No. 23/96); and
  • Establishing Animal Reserves and Natural Parks (Royal Decree No. 48/97, No. 49/97, and No. 50/97).

Royal Decree No. 68/79 established the Council for Conservation of Environment and Prevention of Pollution, under the chairmanship of His Majesty the Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id. Royal Decree No. 45/84 established the Ministry of Environment − the first of its kind in the Arab world − which, pursuant to Royal Decree No. 90/07, is now called the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs.

II.  International Treaties and Conventions

Oman has ratified many international treaties related to environmental protection, including the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Framework Convention on Climatic Change, and the UN Agreement on Prevention of Desertification in Countries Facing Severe Arid Conditions.

B.  General Overview of Environmental Standards in the Sultanate

As stated above, Oman has a whole body of environmental laws, principal among them being Law for Protection of Environment and Combating Pollution (Royal Decree No. 114/01). This law imposes strict penalties for release of environmental pollutants and discharge of effluents in land and marine territory of Oman.

The Environmental regime regulates circulation and use of chemicals (Royal Decree No. 46/95); marine pollution (Royal Decree No. 34/74); air pollution from stationary sources (Ministerial Decision No. 5/86); management of solid non-hazardous waste (Ministerial Decision No. 17/93); management of hazardous waste (Ministerial Decision No. 18/93); noise pollution in the work place (Ministerial Decision No. 80/1994); waste water re-use and discharge (Ministerial Decision No. 145/93); occupational health and industrial safety precaution (Ministerial Decision No. 19/82); noise pollution in the public environment (Ministerial Decision No. 79/94); disposal of commercial waste materials (Ministerial Decision No. 8/84); and finally disposal of liquid effluents into the marine environment (Ministerial Decision No. 7/84). Petroleum Law (Royal Decree No. 42/74) and Mining Law (Royal Decree No. 27/03) stipulate environmental standards for items covered by it and the Civil Defense Law (Royal Decree No. 76/91) contains provisions relating to fire safety and environment.

Environmental problems currently faced by Oman include:

  • high levels of soil and water salinity in the coastal plains;
  • scarcity of water due to prolonged drought in certain areas;
  • industrial effluents seeping into the water tables and aquifers; and
  • desertification due to high winds driving desert sand into arable lands.

 III. Main Areas of Environmental Concern

1.   Marine pollution

The Law on Marine Pollution Control (Royal Decree No. 34/74), 1974, brought to light Oman’s early concern for the safety of its marine environment. This law prohibits the discharge or release of any pollutant from a ship, shore location or oil transport facility in the Pollution Free Zone of Oman. This zone is the belt of water around Oman’s territorial waters, which stretched for a distance of 38 miles. Any person violating the provisions of this law is subject to a maximum penalty of OMR 25,000 for a single violation, and of OMR 4 million for multiple violations, and may also be deprived, either temporarily or permanently, of all environmental rights granted by the government. Terms such as “operator”, “oil transport facility”, “pollutant”, “pollution control officer”, etc. are all defined in this law.

2.   Air pollution

Ministerial Decision No. 118/04 on the Control of Air Pollution from Stationary Sources stipulates that owners must employ scientific methods specified by the ministry for the prevention of the emission of pollutants, and for their treatment and disposal. This law prohibits the emission of smoke over a specified density, and burning of organic or agricultural waste in the open. Approval must be obtained before installing a chimney, which must conform to the height specifications stipulated depending on its intended use.

3.   Noise pollution

Ministerial Decision No. 79/94 on the Control of Noise Pollution in Public Places prescribes noise levels based on the classification of public places, and identifies the following as external sources of noise:

  • Industrial plants and construction sites;
  • Road traffic; and
  • Airports and the operation of commercial and other aircrafts.

Variations in noise levels during the day on weekdays and holidays are measured in accordance with the prevailing international standards, taking into account wind velocity direction, temperature and humidity.

Ministerial Decision No. 80/94 on Noise Pollution Control in the Work Place prescribes noise limits in places of work. Machines, equipment and other noise generating installations are required to be checked for noise emission levels during operation and installation.

October, 2013 Catherine Jaskiewicz
Meyer-Reumann & Partners, Muscat Office
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