Ministerial panel to assess Mekunu losses

MUSCAT: The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs has formed a committee to assess the environmental damage caused by the Cyclone Mekunu to bring back the situation to normalcy. This was stated by Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs, when he was hosted by the Majlis Ash’shura on the second day. The session, held under the chairmanship of Shaikh Khalid bin Hilal al Maawali, Chairman of Majlis Ash’shura, continued its discussion on the statement by Al Toobi.
The minister’s statement included six main themes which covered the development of environment and climate sector, training and rehabilitation of national cadre, coordination with agencies involved in environmental work, licensing, international conventions on environment and the relation of the ministry with civil society organisations.
During the session, Mohammed bin Musalam Hubais, Member of the Economic and Financial Committee, made a statement on the adverse weather conditions that affected the governorates of Dhofar and Al Wusta.
He called for constituting a ministerial committee with broad powers to assess the losses caused by the cyclone and called for providing farm insurance.
The questions by members focused on the importance of forming a ministerial committee with necessary financial allocations to assess the losses caused by the tropical cyclone.
They also called for reconsidering the fees for environmental permits, such as licences for factories and noted that some factories were shut due to high fees imposed on them.
They also called for full exemption of fees for environmental activities.
Replying to their questions, the minister said that cancellation of fees may not be considered at present.
The members proposed to specify certain locations for dumping agricultural waste which now pose environmental threat as some farmers tend to burn them.

They also raised questions regarding a wide range of issues such as the ministry’s work strategy, landfills, fees imposed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs on commercial activities, exploitation of natural reserves, impact of quarries and crushers on public health, the problem of gas emissions, plantation of trees for the conservation of environment, burning of farm waste and management of medical waste, question of logging, ministry’s role in limiting the use of plastic bags and the impact of adverse weather conditions.
The revocation of fees for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is currently not under consideration by the ministry, and it depends on the scale of the damage caused by these SMEs on the environment and the cancellation of fees entails that the activities carried out by a company bring no environmental damage,
the minister said, indicating that the fees are tantamount to environmental tax.
He added that the fees range from RO 150 to RO 1,500 depending on the scale of the damage with more than 500 activities exempted from the fees over three years.
The nature reserves are the ‘lungs’ with which the cities breath. Hence, the projects therein should comply with the environmental standards. The ministry will announce three more natural reserves shortly, Al Toobi said.
The issue of gas emission from industrial estates in the wilayats of Suhar and Liwa is among the most serious challenges facing the ministry.
However, a significant improvement is seen and this has been welcomed by the residents.
Generally, the emissions are within acceptable limits except in some rare cases. Responding to a request for establishing ministry’s office in the wilayats, the minister said the ministry is seeking to reduce the office staff by providing e-services and it is among the first ministries to join the Invest Easy e-Portal.
On the other side, the ministry is targeting to increase its field inspection and monitoring staff.
Regarding restricting the use of plastic bags, he said the ministry will soon issue a regulation on this, and there are three companies producing biodegradable bags and we hope that rest of the companies will follow.

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