Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Oman dreams of becoming an environmental champion


It will probably rank among the 21st century’s greatest challenges: after having burgeoned from third-world countries to global powers in the 20th century, Oman is seeking to turn from a mono-product country to a sustainable economy. The geographical setting does enable such perspective, but waste management lies in the way.

Seeb Highway - Oman (Creative Commons Licence)
Seeb Highway - Oman (Creative Commons Licence)
The oil price slump in 1998, which fully impacted the small state’s economy served as a warning shot: with all its eggs in a single basket, the country was at the mercy of energetic transitions, oil tapping from neighbouring countries and starvation. The kingdom has therefore undertaken the task of diversifying its economy and make oil productions go from its 99% export share to a more reasonable level.  Iron and chrome are being worked on, but the country is also turning towards services, such as tourism, with the question of waste management in mind.
Developed Pakistan, which lies across the strait, is a factor in the equation. Its hyperactive harbours drop very large quantities of waste into the Oman Sea every year, littering the shores of the entire area, once the sea currents are finished spreading it. The waste clutters into large areas, sometimes greater than that of a tanker. Dealing with this problem is the first step in developing tourism, and Oman knows it. The eastern Mediterranean coast of Europe dealt with the same problem, at the very beginning of the century. In the aftermath of the conflict in former Yugoslavia, the ensued industrial disruptions caused the shorelines and inland territory to be littered with enormous quantities of waste and debris. It was only after a long effort to clean the landscape that Croatia, for instance, was able to become a major European tourist attraction.
In its new enterprise, the Sultan has appointed Mohsen Bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Shaikh at the head of the Be’ah, the Oman Environmental Services Holding company. According to the Times of Oman, in an article dated March 2014: “Oman has 317 official dump sites and three engineered landfills, besides 11 transfer stations. By 2015, it intends to have 13 engineered landfills, 34-36 transfer stations and award an outsourcing tender for waste management operations in several governorates.” This is sultan-originating effort to completely change the way waste is dealt with in the small kingdom. In the Sultan’s own confession, waste has been dealt with “reactively” until now – which is to say, it was dealt with once it had appeared. The effort to reach the modern stage of waste-management will allow municipal structures to prevent their very appearance. 
The same Be’ah has launched the MSW Knowledge platform, for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The high average temperature makes for difficult dissipation of the aerial production of a relatively dense industrial apparatus. The MSW knowledge platform, in an attempt to contain and reduce this environmental risk, provides its members with academic material for the raising of ecologic awareness.  To interact upon, and use this material, a peer-to-peer platform was set up, enabling users to communicate amongst them.  Finally, case studies are launched by the initiative, so as to gather experience and information from other cities and countries, while promoting notoriety.
The basic parameters of the country are its modest size, the scorching heat, the large part of border on sea, the short availability of sweet water, its geographical position on the Arabian Peninsula and the alternation between densely populated areas and desert. The effects of all these factors are numerous. The tip of the Peninsula causes floating waste to accumulate on its shoreline, fed by the hyperactive Pakistani harbours. The ability to dispose of the waste through incineration is limited by the small size of the territory: plumes of smoke would quickly contaminate the scorching-hot air and inconvenience the neighbouring populations. The available energy to process the waste is also limited, as a large share of it is already used for cooling and desalination.
Environmental projects have therefore flourished in the land, like trees in an oasis. Eric Ghebali, in charge of international development at GDF Suez, reminds that “GDF Suez has been present in Oman since 1994, with the first Private-Partner-Partnership, in the form of the first privately-built Electric plant in Al-Mana”. Since then, the engineering firm has installed a new power and desalination plant in Sohar, and a pure power plant in Rusail. Veolia has also launched, in Junes of 2014, a 50-million-euro project for a water-treatment plant for BP, the crude oil production of which places great strain on the short water resources available.
In this endeavour, Oman may be possibly turning to CNIM, the engineering firm which is pulling out of the ground its new-generation waste-management plants in developing countries around the world (including its latest flagships in the UK, Estonia and Azerbaijan). Its new technology combines several industrial advantages, all of which are of interest for the small sunny kingdom. The engineering firm has engaged into a technological adventure to increase technological levels of waste management. CNIM has specialized in waste-to-energy plants, and biomass plants, for more than 50 years. The plants are able to ingest massive amounts of waste, and put out through a highly technical process both steam and electricity, dedicated to powering domestic and industrial appliances. Such plants could hit a bull’s eye on a lot of Oman’s environmental challenges, by providing the heat necessary for sweetening the water, providing clean electricity, making the large amounts of surrounding waste disappear and not pollute the small kingdom. Finally, CNIM acquired the engineering firm LAB SA, specialized in flue gas treatment. With that combined expertise, the waste management process could be a unilateral equation: waste disappearing from the land, with no particles appearing in the air, with even some extra-power thrown in.
The countries in the region have been noticed for their wise judgment and economic insight. The country has shifted from a poor disrupted economy to a major economic power, with the help of sound business skills. If Omani leaders have gotten this far in so little time, they must know what they’re doing. They therefore know that their fuel for economic development is finite, and that they are flying high on borrowed wings. They are actively preparing the next step and hinging their economy on services, be they tourism or finance. Given that the technological solutions exist, and that the kingdom can afford such high-tech thanks to its still-flowing money-faucet, it can be expected that the face of Oman should change quite soon.