Viewing cable 05MUSCAT367
Title: OMAN: FTA INFORMATION ON ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT3672005-03-02 10:54:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MUSCAT 000367 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ETRD ECON SENV MU ESTH
SUBJECT: OMAN: FTA INFORMATION ON ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS 
 
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO EB/TPP/MTA(AMY HOLMAN), OES/ENV(BARBARA 
CATES), AND USTR(JENNIFER PRESCOTT/JASON BUNTIN) 
 
REF: SECSTATE 25544 
 
¶1. (SBU) Embassy Muscat is pleased to provide additional 
information regarding environmental matters in Oman to 
assist USG negotiators for the upcoming free trade agreement 
talks.  The following responses are keyed to questions (a - 
t) in paragraph 5 of reftel. 
 
a. The Law on Conservation of The Environment and Prevention 
of Pollution issued via Royal Decree 114/2001 is available 
as a publication at the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, 
Environment and Water Resources (MRMEWR).  (A copy of this 
publication was sent to USTR via unclassified e-mail on 
2/15/2005.) Other executive regulations dealing with 
hazardous waste, chemical waste, and protection of the 
marine environment may be obtained from the Ministry or 
found in the Official Gazette. Highlights of them are 
available at the MRMEWR website: www.mrmewr.gov.om. 
 
b. The primary body responsible for environmental regulation 
and enforcement is the MRMEWR. The Diwan of Royal Court is 
responsible for the Oryx Sanctuary in Central Oman. The 
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries oversees compliance 
with marine environment laws. The Ministry of Oil and Gas, 
as well as government-owned Petroleum Development Oman 
(PDO), provide environmental impact assessments of 
hydrocarbon production. 
 
c. There is an ongoing relationship between the Ministry of 
Commerce and Industry and MRMEWR. The MRMEWR is responsible 
for the evaluation of environmental impact studies that are 
required as a condition for the establishment of new 
projects. We understand the MRMEWR is being consulted on the 
proposed FTA agreement, and MRMEWR officials have been 
participating in interagency and TIFA Council meetings. 
 
d. The MRMEWR is responsible for evaluation of Environmental 
Impact Assessments of all major public and private projects. 
Details for obtaining environmental permits for industrial, 
tourism, mining, agricultural, food, service, and 
marine/coastal projects can be found at government websites. 
The Ministry is also responsible for: 
-- Administering protected areas and sanctuaries. 
-- Levying fines for polluters. 
-- Managing ground water resources. 
-- Promoting environmental awareness. 
 
The Royal Diwan (Court) is responsible for the Oryx Wildlife 
Sanctuary located in the interior region of Wusta. 
 
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries promotes 
sustainable fisheries development through research, fish 
stock composition, surveying and conservation of the marine 
environment. 
 
The Ministry of Oil and Gas and Petroleum Development Oman 
(PDO) assess the impact of hydrocarbon production and 
sponsor some environmental programs. 
 
e. Protection of the environment is a basic component of 
government trade promotion. Priority is given to the marine 
environment and wildlife preservation. Oman's lengthy 
coastline on the Arabian Sea and its location straddling the 
active Strait of Hormuz translate into a major sensitivity 
to the potential risks of oil pollution, particularly in 
light of the importance of local fisheries. Oman's interest 
in protecting wildlife stems from the Sultan's personal 
interest in preserving rare and endangered species 
inhabiting Oman, such as the Green Turtle, the Loggerhead 
Turtle, the Olive Ridley Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle, and 
the Arabian Oryx. The Sultan has a special advisor for 
environment in addition to a specific advisor who manages 
the Oryx reserve. Nonetheless, with the development of the 
industrial areas adjacent to the Port of Sohar, more 
emphasis will be needed to monitor and regulate the 
potential environmental impact of newly established and 
proposed projects in the area (an aluminum smelter, an iron 
and steel plant, petrochemical industries, fertilizer and 
urea factories, a second oil refinery, etc.). 
 
f. The key environmental issues and challenges facing Oman 
are varied: 
 
-- Marine and coastal pollution is an issue since Oman 
straddles the Strait of Hormuz and remains vulnerable to oil 
spillage and beach pollution. 
 
-- Wildlife conservation is also a high priority in Oman. 
Protective sanctuaries have been built for turtle nesting, 
dolphins, gazelles, oryx, and tahir.  (Note: Ironically, the 
Sultanate is one of the only countries in the region not to 
have ratified the CITES Convention.  Omani officials insist 
that ratification is imminent, but no action has yet been 
taken in that regard.  End Note.) 
-- While the Government of Oman seeks to promote tourism, 
there is a risk of human interference in sensitive wildlife 
habitats, such as turtle nesting beaches popular with 
tourists and near-shore corals damaged by seaside 
construction. 
-- The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is active in 
cataloging marine resources, and cracking down on illegal 
fishing, such as early harvesting of lobsters. 
 
-- Water management continues to be a long-term concern, 
especially along the Batinah coast northwest of Muscat. 
Saltwater intrusion and soil salinity is affecting fresh 
water resources. 
 
-- Although government laboratories are continuously 
monitoring environmental pollution, the rise of newly 
established industries and industrial estates, such as in 
Sohar, has given rise to future pollution concerns. 
 
g. Environmental laws are enforced by penalties. Royal 
Decree 114/2001 provided for a set of fines and penalties 
that can reach up to $13,000 and up to five years 
imprisonment on various environmental violations. 
 
h. There is public access to the judicial system and 
independent public prosecutors. Court hearings are generally 
public. The public may petition through the Consultative 
Council (Majlis al-Shura, an elected body) in the event of 
violations.  A case can also be raised against government 
offices at the Administrative Court. The public may not view 
government decisions before they are issued, but the 
Consultative Council is usually consulted on new laws and 
may recommend new legislation. Individuals can pursue 
private actions for personal damage. Indeed, if a person or 
entity is harmed by a certain environmental protection 
action, he/she may submit a grievance to the Minister of 
RMEWR, who may enforce or cancel the decision. The public 
has the right to pursue action to enforce the environmental 
law.  Previous citizen involvement has led to enforcement of 
environmental regulations regarding dumping sites in the 
capital and dust/fumes from industrial projects at cement 
factories.  The MRMEWR operates a website that includes a 
link by which the public can submit queries. 
 
i. The Minister of Justice in conjunction with the Minister 
of RMEWR issues decisions appointing environmental 
inspectors who are judicially empowered to inspect and 
report environmental offences. The Justice Ministry collects 
fines and pursues other legal penalties through the judicial 
system. 
 
j. International treaties are implemented through national 
legislation.  The MRMEWR is responsible for the 
implementation of international treaties, represents the 
Sultanate in treaty negotiations, and advises the government 
on signing environmental agreements. The judiciary is 
divided into primary, secondary and supreme courts with an 
independent public prosecutor. All criminal, commercial or 
civil cases are submitted before the primary courts. A 
separate administrative court and state security court were 
also established to manage special cases in their respective 
fields. 
 
k. Article 12 of the Basic Law of the State says "The 
State...works to conserve and protect the environment and 
prevent pollution." 
 
l. The Environmental Society of Oman (ESO) was officially 
registered in 2004 as the first Omani NGO dedicated to 
protection and research of the environment. The group was 
launched by a number of expatriates, but grew to include 
many Omanis (including government officials and members of 
the royal family). The group is focused on marine 
conservation and cetacean research, although terrestrial 
pollution is another concern being addressed by members. 
NGOs are tightly controlled and monitored in Oman by the 
Ministry of Social Development, and the ESO's registration 
process took several years to complete. 
 
m. Sultan Qaboos University has a leading role in 
environmental research. Moreover, private academic and 
educational institutions are also encouraged to involve 
students in understanding environmental concepts and their 
role as part of society in protecting the environment. 
Activities are usually organized in schools where students 
help other members of the community to clean up beaches or 
roads or help in some environmental projects.  Several local 
firms act as environmental consultants for project 
development. 
n. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted a series 
of recent orientation and survey visits to turtle nesting 
beaches in eastern Oman, with the cooperation of the Omani 
government and Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).  USDA is 
sending several experts to Oman in March 2005 to participate 
in an international conference on Witches Broom Disease of 
Lime, a debilitating citrus epidemic affecting the Gulf 
region and South Asia.  The last USAID project in Oman 
(completed in the late 1990s) was a wastewater treatment 
plant in the southern city of Salalah.  The treated water 
from this plant is pumped deep underground to replenish the 
local aquifer and reportedly has already helped lower 
salinity levels in ground water.  In February 2004, the 
National Science Foundation sponsored a group of a dozen 
American scientists to travel to Oman to conduct a joint 
workshop on living marine resources with SQU.  Finally, the 
Embassy successfully hosted two Science Fellows, in 2003 and 
2004, each of whom effectively opened doors in the local 
scientific and environmental communities. 
 
o. There is no environmental strategy that has been made 
public, although Oman Environment Day in January of each 
year is widely publicized through newspaper advertisements. 
 
p. The following environmental cables, listed by MRN number, 
were sent from Embassy Muscat over the past two years: 
(CY2004) 1676, 1619, 1116, 784, 545, 526, 456, 302, 274, 
193, 114, 74; (CY2003) 2424, 927, 535. 
 
q. Opening up of the market, especially to foreign 
investment, would certainly contribute towards growth in the 
heavy and oil/gas downstream industries. With relatively 
large rural and coastal areas being increasingly considered 
for establishment of new projects, such as Sur and Sohar, 
there is an increasing concern over soil, air, and coastal 
pollution in largely untouched and pristine areas of the 
Sultanate. Oman's stated desire to boost tourism and exploit 
its beaches and natural sites also raises concerns at public 
and decision-making levels, which may explain some of Oman's 
lingering reluctance to embrace foreign tourism 
wholeheartedly. 
 
r. Major industrial sectors are: oil and gas and related 
industries, shipping, tourism, textiles, and foodstuffs. 
Land use includes oil exploration and development, mining, 
and limited agriculture.  Marine use consists of artisanal 
and commercial fishing. 
 
s. The major capacity building needs for Oman in relation to 
free trade are its ability to gain access to new 
technologies for countering environmental hazards, its 
ability to effectively monitor and enforce its environmental 
regulations, and the ability to balance long-term economic 
development with adequate environmental protection. With 
major ports entering the business of shipping, given Oman's 
strategic position for oil shipments, and ongoing 
development of new industrial estates in Sohar and other 
parts of the country, laboratories and testing equipment are 
an area of potential growth, especially for sea, soil and 
air pollution. 
 
t. Muscat is home to the Middle East Desalination Research 
Center (MEDRC), a vestige of the Middle East Peace Process 
Track II.  We frequently interact with MEDRC officials, and 
the presence of the center is another strong boost for 
collaborative scientific research in the region.  In 
addition, the Embassy is seeking to host a new Environment, 
Science, Technology and Health (ESTH) Hub for the Gulf 
Region, which would provide an ideal vehicle through which 
to coordinate follow-up on the FTA Environment Chapter and 
related annexes. 
 
BALTIMORE