BALANCED GROWTH

Oman 2020 | SUSTAINABILITY | INTERVIEW

“The Sultanate seeks to achieve balance in development in all regions, including rural and urban areas, and optimal exploitation and sustainability of natural resources."

Mohammed bin Salim bin Said al Toobi
BIOGRAPHY

Mohammed bin Salim bin Said 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).

What is the key to strike a balance between a top-down and bottom-up approach to reach the highest standards of environmental sustainability in rural locations in Oman?
The Sultanate pays great attention to the environment and its protection from the adverse effects of pollution in order to preserve its components and sources. The Sultanate provides a unique example in the preservation and protection of the environment, as it has a prominent place at the regional and international levels for its distinguished achievements in conservation of environment and wildlife placing it among the ranks of developed countries. The deterioration of environmental, social, and economic conditions in rural areas leads to high rates of migration to urban areas, especially in middle-income and least developed countries. The quality of life in the countryside has declined in most Arab countries for various reasons, the most important of which is the focus in development programs on solving the problems and needs of urban areas while neglecting the allocation of sufficient resources for the development of rural areas. The Sultanate seeks to achieve balance in development in all regions, including rural and urban areas, and optimal exploitation and sustainability of natural resources in rural areas by the competent authorities. The key to achieving balance in these aspects is through integrating social aspects and community opinion in rural areas in the development of these areas, taking their recommendations in decision-making, and realizing the relationship between society and its environment.

What are the main opportunities for the private sector to engage in addressing the challenges of desertification, land degradation, reduction in vegetation, drought, and loss of biodiversity?
Addressing these above issues is not limited to government agencies alone; the private sector also has a major and significant role in this aspect through the management and mitigation of degraded land use activities, restoration of degraded lands, and making use of ecosystem services, in particular Oman's wild plants and trees, using an approach based on the sustainable use of natural resources and the conservation of the ecosystem by: providing clear guidelines for environmental management and land rehabilitation, especially around oilfields and mining areas; introducing community-based management of grazing at open spaces and exploiting non-timber forest products (such as frankincense and honey); investing and making use of mesquite (prosopis juliflora) by using their wood as firewood and for charcoal production; establishing nurseries to propagate wild plants and trees and encouraging people to plant them; and the national initiative to plant 10 million wild trees of Oman. Finally, private sector sewage companies shall provide water for projects concerned with combating desertification and land degradation in regions and sites located near sewage plants.

What is your assessment of the country's path to divert waste by recycling and waste to energy projects?
Reducing waste production from different economic activities and increased population growth is one of the challenges facing many countries around the world, but the government always seeks to enhance the participation of the private sector in providing various services and advancing the development process in all sectors, including the waste sector. Since Oman Environmental Service Holding Company S.A.O.C (be'ah) has been granted the mandate for waste sector management and operation in the Sultanate, the company, in coordination with the ministry and other relevant entities, establishes many facilities for receiving, treatment and final disposal of non-hazardous solid waste and health care waste in all regions of the Sultanate. Also, there are many investment projects provided for the private sector to invest in, such as construction and demolition waste recycling projects, used tires recycling projects, waste-into-energy projects, production of biogas from waste, and other projects. The steps the ministry is taking to strengthen inspection and control of industrial and service establishments to urge them to reduce waste production and encourage them to recycling and reuse processes will enable the country to go on right direction regarding waste management in the next stage.