WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

Oman 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Tariq Al Amri, CEO of Be'ah, on solid waste management, developing awareness, and seeking skilled workers.

Tariq Al Amri
BIOGRAPHY
Tariq Al Amri assumed the role of CEO of Be’ah in 2011 and brings more than 26 years of experience spanning many industries. He started his career as a project engineer working for Petroleum Development of Oman (PDO). In 1996, he joined one of the government’s pension funds as head of investment. Then he moved to Oman LNG as head of strategic finance, where he was responsible for the economics of the Qalhat LNG project. In 2004, he joined Omantel as head of finance before he was assigned the role of VP responsible for the commercial, finance, HR, and corporate affairs. He holds an MBA and BSc in electrical engineering, both from the US.

What is Be'ah's current strategy to position itself as a leader in solid waste management and other related segments?

Be'ah came into existence in 2007, and our first goal was damage control; we could not allow these waste disposal practices to continue. Even the recycling industry in Oman was too informal, and safety and environmental standards were bad. Our priority was to replace the dumpsites with proper infrastructure and engineered landfills, and then start providing municipal waste services across the country. We closed over 380 dumpsites across Oman and replaced them with 11 engineered landfills supported by around 25 transfer stations and logistical hubs. Once we have the infrastructure ready in an area, we tender for international players to come and provide the municipal waste services. Special facilities need to be built to treat healthcare waste coming out of hospitals, clinics, and to a certain extent pharmacies. We moved to an autoclave system, which is basically a sterilization process, and then we can shred and landfill the waste. Now we have four autoclave lines in Muscat, plus one facility in the north close to Sohar and another in the south near Salalah. We currently have three facilities treating almost 95% of all our healthcare waste. We are planning an integrated facility in Sohar to treat hazardous waste. Phase I will be ready by the end of 2017 and operational in 2018. We are currently floating tenders to build Phase II, which is the most complex part of the project, and it should be ready by 2020. By 2020 we will have a state-of-the-art facility in Oman dealing with all kinds of hazardous waste.

How do you fulfill your mission, both through legislation and increasing awareness?

One of the success factors is the legal framework. This is as important as public awareness. This is one of the challenges for Be'ah because the legal framework is not sufficient, for example in terms of policing powers. We are working closely with the Ministry of the Environment to develop the right legislation. We have a first draft under review and hopefully within 2017, we will have a proper law, which will be followed by proper regulations. Once the legislation is in place, we have to ensure there is proper policing of it. In terms of changing waste management habits, there are two aspects—education and awareness. We have a joint team with the Ministry of Education to develop and update the government schools' curriculum to make sure environmental topics are included. This will be an ongoing process where we continue to update the syllabus as developments come in. In terms of public awareness we have a dedicated community outreach team that is out every day meeting different communities, households, and schools. We have looked at what is going on around the world and have picked the approaches we think are best for Oman and adapted these for use here.

How easy is it to find the skilled engineers, chemists, and other professional talent you need to move your strategy forward?

It was a challenge and it remains a challenge in some areas. When it comes to engineers, they are readily available as graduates, but the problem comes with getting experienced engineers and chemists in this particular field. This is why we put so much emphasis on developing young Omanis at Be'ah. What makes us stand out among the companies in Oman is we invest heavily in people. We send them out on training programs and bring training programs into Oman. That said, we had to bring in experts from around the world, including New Zealand, Australia, and Denmark. We try to get the best experience into the company here. It is a challenge. In terms of Omanization, around 86% of our staff at Be'ah are Omani.