FORMALLY GREEN

Oman 2016 | ENVIRONMENT & UTILITIES | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Najeeb A. Al-Rawas, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), on Oman's innate sense of environmental appreciation and awareness.

 HE Najeeb A. Al-Rawas
BIOGRAPHY
HE Najeeb A. Al-Rawas is an environmental veteran who has served the government of Oman for over 25 years. He became the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs in 2013. Najeeb Al Rawas has played a major role over the years in the development and progress made in environmental management not only in Oman but also in the Gulf. In recognition for his role and efforts, he was appointed as an Ambassador and Head of the GCC Mission to the European Union from 1996 to 2002. Najeeb Al Rawas holds a BSc in Environmental Science from Boise State University, US, as well as a Master's degree in Natural Resources Planning from Aberdeen University, in Scotland.

How would you rate Omanis' level of awareness for environmental issues, and what is the Ministry doing to raise awareness in this area?

Environmental awareness is the foundation for sound environmental management and protection. One of the Ministry's mandates is to strengthen this among all segments of society through the promotion of positive changes for a better, more protected and sustainable environment. This is possible not only with the right level of awareness, but also with balanced laws and regulations that support sound science, planning, and the encouragement of environmentally-friendly practices. Omanis are generally very attached to nature and their environment, and so have developed unique means to maintain their surroundings. Our task at the Ministry is to apply the right strategies and practices to channel and utilize the natural zeal of Omanis for an enhanced outcome. We work closely with the Ministry of Education, schools, and universities to integrate environmental issues and concepts of protection in their curricula. Additionally, various research centers collaborate with us to carry out the necessary studies and research to achieve our goals. Our activities to raise awareness include cooperation with media, print, TV, radio, and social media avenues. To promote education and dialogue, the Ministry holds workshops and brings students, business executives, and NGOs to talk about the environment and its most pertinent issues, as well as how to solve certain problems. In addition, we join the world in celebrating international occasions and events where our efforts help raise awareness levels.

The Ministry also has a mandate to take care of climate affairs. What is being done to protect Oman in the event of natural disasters?

Oman has shown foresight by establishing a Ministry that oversees not only environment and nature conservation, but also climate affairs in an integrated fashion. The ministry is responsible for developing and setting policies and laws, enforcing regulations, carrying out research and studies, and coordinating with relevant sectors. Our efforts extend both to the regional and international communities through handling of international negotiations and cooperation on climate change. Currently, the “National Strategy for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change Impacts” is being prepared in collaboration with Sultan Qaboos University and UNEP. This will complement national efforts to address the adverse impacts of climate change including natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis. Oman has established several preparedness and response mechanisms including coordination among relevant authorities such as, in addition to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs: the National Civil Defense Committee, Public Authority for Civil Aviation, the Supreme Council of Planning, the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Housing as well as others. Another important development has been the establishment of the National Multi-Hazard Early Warning System in collaboration with IOC-UNESCO. Through these efforts and activities, Oman is well prepared to proactively deal with such disasters.

How does the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs cooperate with other Ministries to ensure that environmental issues are taken care of in other sectors?

Environmental protection and conservation hold a central place in Oman's vision and regulations. As a result, environmental issues and dimensions are integrated into sectoral activities in various forms. The ministry cooperates with all other sectors to ensure that the environment, with its social, biological and physical compartments, is embedded in the planning and execution of plans and projects. In addition, the ministry is represented in various inter-sectoral committees to include environmental issues in strategies and programs. In a nutshell, cooperation, collaboration and dialogue with other ministries are always implemented in the early stages of planning and form part of our continuous activity.