UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MUSCAT 000367
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
Â¶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
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
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
-- 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
-- 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
-- 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
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
k. Article 12 of the Basic Law of the State says "The
State...works to conserve and protect the environment and
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
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
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
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