A NATURAL SOLUTION

Oman 2016 | ENVIRONMENT & UTILITIES | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), on the role of the ministry in improving environmental management, key areas of interest, and preserving the long-term value of Oman's environment through sustainable tourism.

HE Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi
BIOGRAPHY
HE Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi is the current Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs. He has 18 years of experience working with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). He holds a degree in Human Resource Management and is member of the Shura Council for Nizwa as well as the Environment Society of Oman (ESO).

By focusing on the management of water, solid waste, and renewable energy in particular, what are the most important projects executed by MECA during 2015?

Water resources are our most valuable natural resources. Water is the lifeline of all living creatures and an important resource for various developmental activities. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) pays great attention to this resource by protecting it from pollution, optimizing its use, and improving recycling. The ministry inspects all projects emitting industrial or sewage waste and sets forth environmental requirements necessary to control or reduce to the lowest possible levels any impact of such pollutants on the environment. MECA further issues permits for re-use of treated water so as to contribute to the preservation of this vital resource. The management and assessment of water resources is outside of MECA jurisdiction and there are other dedicated agencies with which MECA coordinates that manage this sector. Regarding the management of solid wastes, MECA functions as a regulatory authority, drafting bills and guidelines, issuing regulations, and following the implementation of the same in coordination with other relevant parties. The ministry provides support to projects and companies operating in the field of waste management as well as to industry investors through facilitating the flow of information and necessary technical data. MECA also encourages companies to introduce systems of improving waste management and recycling in keeping with the best global environmental practices.

What are the main areas of environmental improvement that need close attention from MECA in 2016?

There are multiple areas that will need environmental upgrading and protection. MECA consolidated the efficacy of environmental management via the provision of necessary tools in all phases of project development lifecycles. We are addressing the need for promoting coordination among stakeholders, implementing technologies of environmental monitoring and controlling, and enhancing research to support the decision-making process. In this regard, MECA is developing a long-term strategy and developing a detailed action plan. There is also a national strategy for controlling changes in climatic impacts and how to best cope with them. A report has been made on specified national contributions to mitigate these effects and cope with climatic changes in cooperation with other agencies. MECA is further upgrading strategies of biodiversity, wildlife protection, and fighting desertification as per the best available global practices in nature conversation. Regarding renewable energy, MECA called for investing in this vital sector through many awareness programs in cooperation with all segments of the community, including workshops, environmental forums, and other similar initiatives aimed at encouraging such a culture in consolidation for sustainable development. The Sultanate has already begun investing in these kinds of environmentally friendly and economically sustainable projects. Additionally, there are plans to control the rationed emissions of many companies. Monitoring of such programs is conducted from a control room at MECA and is meant to conform to the global systems approved in the field of environmental preservation.

Oman hosted a sustainable tourism workshop in May 2015 under your patronage. What are MECA's plans to support such initiative in the future?

Environmental tourism in Oman attracts visitors from inside and outside the Sultanate. Numbers have increased recently, thanks to the security, beauty, and natural landscape of Oman. MECA will develop an agenda in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism so as to take full advantage of the available natural reserves and attractions in a way that preserves their functions while sustaining our long-term heritage in a skilled manner. We are working to provide them with necessary services to support their active role in creating socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable development. MECA is cooperating with experienced international and regional agencies in this regard, as well. The ministry is also considering a number of new projects for the private sector in the field of sustainable tourism.