The desire for a green and pollution-free environment in Oman grows every year, as the world seeks to tackle the ill effects of global warming and other environmental concerns. As the world gears up to combat this threat, the Sultanate of Oman has put a series of laws in place to protect its land and territorial waters against pollution. Protection of habitats has been achieved through the environmental permit system implemented under Sultani Decree 10/82 (now replaced by Sultani Decree 114/01). The Sultanate has always sought to strike a balance between the needs of development and the environment. Industrial construction projects must be reviewed and certified by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (the “MOECA”) before commencement. When reviewing a proposed construction project, the MOECA examines the possibility of damage to the environment and ensures that all measures have been taken to minimise pollution from waste products prior to giving its approval.
Legislation for wildlife protection and nature conservation is mainly in the form of Sultani Decrees and Ministerial Decisions. The management and action plans for all protected areas are strictly implemented. Sultani Decree 34/74, issuing the Marine Pollution Control Law, seeks to ensure the safety of the marine environment. Sultani Decree 68/79, establishing the Council for Conservation of Environment and Prevention of Pollution, was followed by Sultani Decree 10/82 (replaced by Sultani Decree 114/01), issuing the Law on Conservation of the Environment and Prevention of Pollution, which laid the practical and scientific basis for private and public practices in environmental fields. This was further strengthened by the issue of Sultani Decree 45/84 establishing the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources as the first ministry of its kind in the Arab world.
One of the most significant laws concerning the protection of the environment in Oman is the law on the Control of Marine Pollution (Sultani Decree 34/74). Under this law, no person has the right to discharge any pollutant in the pollution-free zone from a ship, shore location or oil transport facility.
Moreover, no ship has the right to discharge any pollutant in the pollution-free zone and each day of a violation is considered as a separate violation. No ship owner or any owner or operator of a shore location or oil transport facility has the right to disregard any of its obligations under the law. Any owner or operator of the shore location or oil transport facility violating the law subsequent to a third offence may be liable to be deprived, either temporarily or permanently, of any or all of the rights granted by the Government. The pollution control officer, or any other person appointed by the MOECA in charge of implementing this law, is empowered to arrest any person who has committed an offence punishable with imprisonment in accordance with this law, and to detain such person until the issue is resolved; the officer may also detain and seize any ship in violation of the law. If a pollutant has been discharged in the pollution-free zone, the owner of that ship or the owner or operator of that shore location or oil transport facility, as the case may be, will be liable for, inter alia, costs borne by the Government in order to mitigate or eliminate the pollution, and the damages suffered by the Government and/or any other person.
Solid non-hazardous waste
The Regulations for the Management of Solid Non-Hazardous Waste (MD 17/93) deal with solid non-hazardous waste, including any solid or semi-solid material, which does not pose any danger to the environment or to the human health, if it is dealt with in a safe scientific way. Household waste and solid materials from commercial and industrial establishments are included in non-hazardous waste. The occupants of premises which are used for commercial or industrial purposes are required to store and dispose of solid non-hazardous waste in accordance with the provisions of these regulations, so that there is no nuisance or hazard to public health.
The user of a commercial or industrial site which produces solid non-hazardous waste is obliged to collect the waste and transport it in a safe manner to a site designated by the relevant authority for the purpose. The law does not permit any person to dispose of solid non-hazardous waste in places other than designated places. No solid non-hazardous waste should be mixed with any category of hazardous waste at any time. Various authorities responsible for the day-to-day operation and management of the collection and disposal of solid non-hazardous waste need to obtain permits and licenses from the MOECA.
The Regulations for the Management of Hazardous Waste (MD 18/93) deal with hazardous waste, including any waste arising from commercial, industrial or any other activities, which due to its nature, composition, quantity or for any other reason is hazardous or threatens to be hazardous to the environment. Any storage facility for hazardous waste must be duly licensed by the MOECA. This law requires all hazardous waste to be labeled and packed according to the provisions stipulated in this respect. Every hazardous waste generator should store the hazardous waste in approved storage facilities on its land, or at its premises, until it is removed in accordance with the terms of the license issued by the MOECA. Hazardous waste must be transported by vehicles licensed by the MOECA to collect, handle, store and dispose of hazardous waste outside the waste generator’s premises.
Waste water re-use and discharge
The Regulations for Wastewater Re-Use and Discharge were promulgated through MD 145/93 and provide that the discharge of any wastewater or sludge into the environment, in whatever form or conditions, is prohibited without a permit to discharge from the MOECA. Further, this law provides for the regulation of the quality of wastewater and its re-use. Before re-use, the wastewater or sludge is tested to determine the quantity of various metals in it and its pH value. Those with high concentrations of metals must be disposed of in sanitary landfills with the prior approval of the MOECA. Wastewater must be discharged only where re-use is not possible. The MOECA may supervise the samples of wastewater at any place at any time.
Whilst there are many other laws that have been issued to ensure the safekeeping of the environment, the above laws are some of the most important in relation to wastewater, management of waste and marine pollution.