Environment protection: Solid pillar in Oman development policy
Oman celebrates 8th of January every year as the National Environment Day. The Sultanate has been thriving to be in the forefront at various measures. With the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, it is a part of the global efforts, first of all, in setting up the general policies, preparing plans and programs for protecting the environment, controlling pollution and nature conservation, and managing, following-up, implementing and evaluating the climatic affairs for better consequences.
Secondly, in ensuring the safety of the environment, pollution control and preservation of ecosystems in the context of the various fundamental objectives of sustainable development, and thirdly, in protecting the wildlife, conserving nature, preserving the renewable resources, and working on utilising them for sustainable uses.
Oman also monitors and evaluates climate changes in co-ordination with the authorities in order to maintain the integrity of the environmental, social and economic systems. It develops and promotes relations in the fields of environmental and climatic affairs with the other countries; activates areas of co-operation with specialized authorities, organizations, and institutions; participates in regional and international conferences; and the ministry represents Oman in the negotiations and agreements related to its functions in the international podium.
The Sultanate of Oman is one of the countries that take special interest in caring for the environment. This care emanates from Sultan Qaboos’ interest in environmental preservation.
On June 1, 1989 on a visit to UNESCO’s headquarters, Sultan Qaboos announced “The Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation”. It is awarded every two years and is open to individuals, institutes and organizations that work to preserve the environment. It was first awarded to an environmental institute in the State of Filakroze in Mexico in 1991. It is the first Arabic prize to be presented by UNESCO in this field at the international level.
The Sultan’s speech on the occasion of the 15th National Day in November 1985 reveals his deep concern for the environment and on ways to preserve it. He said: “As a result of our great concern for the protection of the natural environment, and our achievements in this respect, Oman has gained a respectable position among nations concerned with environmental protection; yet we still have to exert more effort and consider the special conditions relevant to this issue, when we come to plan and implement development projects. We must proceed to develop contacts with regional and international organizations concerned. It is a duty which must be undertaken by each citizen, to guarantee the protection of our natural resources and public health against any harmful effects, and protect the beautiful and distinguished nature which God Almighty granted to our beloved Oman.”
Due to this huge interest in the environment, the Sultanate established a ministry, presently named the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, to take on direct responsibility for the protection of the environment. Co-operation with other bodies is an essential part of its duties; the Ministry of Education’s commitment towards environmental issues makes it one of the most important players in this dialogue.
Education is the source for the promotion of good behaviour and it is, therefore, considered to be the most effective way to spread awareness of the concept of environmental preservation and to teach learners how to take care of their environment. A Ministry of Education’s document entitled “Philosophy of Education” recognizes the importance of this role when it states that:
- Protecting the environment.
- Promoting the quality of social welfare by balancing development needs with the conservation of natural resources.
The school environment is regarded as an essential dimension of the educational system in the Sultanate and issues related to this are included in textbooks and activities in order to accomplish the general educational aims. One of these aims is to promote the concept of environmental preservation among young people and schools in the Sultanate participate in a range of projects focusing on this important issue. For example, schools participate in the worldwide celebration of World Environment Day and they present broadcasting programs focusing on environmental issues such as trees, water and pollution. They also celebrate Tree Day on October 27. On this special day pupils plants trees inside and outside their schools in order to encourage others to take care of the green areas in their country.
Textbooks in the Sultanate are designed in accordance with the philosophy of Education. Since the philosophy recognizes the importance of environmental education, the textbooks focus on this issue in different ways, and this starts from grade one. Although students in cycle one (grades 1-4) are not issued with science textbooks, the teacher’s book contains activities and information concerning the environment. The aim is to encourage teachers to shift away from the traditional teaching method of merely providing students with information to a methodology which enables students to discover the information for themselves through the carrying out of experiments.
The implementation of this new methodology helps students to acquire the skills required for life-long learning. In cycle two (grades 5-12) students are given textbooks that build on what has been learnt in cycle one and, as they progress through the grade levels, they gradually move from basic issues to more sophisticated ones. For example, in grade 12 an entire book, entitled “Science and the Environment”, is devoted to the environment. In this book, students are presented with a range of different life issues all of which contain an environmental dimension. For instance, they study a unit about genetics that does not only provide theoretical information but includes several activities asking students to apply what they know in real life practice. They conduct experiments to see the impact of genetics on the environment.
Students’ activities complement the textbooks in the delivery of a comprehensive teaching and learning approach. Students’ activities link students to real life issues. One of these activities is entitled “Public Service and Friends of the Environment Group”. This activity teaches pupils how to help others in society and how to help in preserving the environment Through this activity, pupils are made aware of the main environmental problems in recent times and on the best ways to deal with them. They prepare small-scale projects and write articles related to the environment. For example, schools organize and implement schemes such as beach cleaning, planting trees, the cleaning of the surrounding areas as well as meeting with local residents to discuss different environmental issues.
The environment is one of the main issues arising from the present-day’s industrial and technological revolution. Industrial waste causes many types of pollution, such as air and water pollution. The improper use of technology can also seriously damage the environment. For example, some technological devices produce dangerous radiation and some of the materials used to make these devices pollute the environment. It is important, therefore, for nations to take special care of the environment and initiate ways to preserve it.
This can only be achieved through gathering the efforts of all the parties involved, including education. Education can help to promote the concept of environmental preservation through its philosophy, textbooks, students’ activities and school environment and it is precisely this multifaceted approach that is being pursued by the Ministry of Education.
The Environmental Society of Oman (ESO) is a non-governmental society which aims to help conserve Oman's natural heritage and raise awareness about environmental issues. ESO was founded in 2004 by Omanis representing different regions and from a variety of professional backgrounds. Some of its aims include:
1. To publish educational and awareness-raising materials for the general public;
2. To organise participatory events that allow the public to become actively involved in conservation activities;
3. To provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information related to the environment in Oman;
4. To foster co-operation between scientific, educational, public and government organisations to promote the conservation of both marine and terrestrial habitats in Oman; and,
5. To actively research the many aspects of Oman's environment to help provide the necessary information for conservation and education initiatives.
Its marine projects include Whale and Dolphin Research, The National Committee for stranded whales and dolphins in Oman’s oceans, Marine Turtles Conservation Project, Satellite tagging, Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve Education and Research Project, Mooring Buoys Project to protect the coral reefs in Oman.
Side by side, the ESO’s Terrestrial Projects include Project Wa'al, Project Shajar, Frankincense Trees Conservation Project.
Additionally, it’s Education and Awareness projects include Paper and Plastic Recycling Project, Anti Plastic Bag Campaign, Development of an Environmental Studies subject in school curriculums in co-operation with the Ministry of Education, Muscat's Beaches Clean-up Campaign, and Raising awareness about climate change and global warming
Sultanate of Oman is seeking to promote the environmental protection and the conservation of natural resources through monitoring development projects and maintaining the biological diversity, and many conservation projects like farming mangrove trees, numbering deer project, management projects of the Omani coasts and putting the national strategy to protect the Omani environment.