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Ambitious strategy for solid waste management in Oman

Azhar Haroun al Kindi

In line with its mandate to manage the solid waste sector in the Sultanate, the state-owned Oman Environment Services Holding Company SAOC (OESHCO) has unveiled an ambitious plan envisaging, among other things, the establishment of 16 state-of-the-art landfills, along with 65 waste transfer stations and five waste treatment plants.

According to Azhar Haroun al Kindi, CEO of OESHCO, the proposed facilities are part of an elaborate strategy to deal the massive volumes of household, industrial, medical, hazardous, electronic and other solid waste that presently ends up in landfills around the country.
In an interview to the Observer, Al Kindi said the strategy effectively sets out a long-term blueprint for the management of all solid waste based on international best practices, and with the private sector slated to play a major part.
Following its establishment by Royal Decree last August, OESHCO has made considerable headway in conceptualizing and strategising the fundamental role it will play in managing the solid waste sector in Oman.
“We have identified all of the key elements necessary to take forward the process of managing the waste sector. In doing so, we also studied the experiences of countries that have advanced waste management systems in place, as well as best practices governing this sector. Further, we have established a broad timescale by which we want to see key elements of this strategy moving into the implementation phase.”
At present, all solid waste is managed by government and public sector entities, such as Muscat Municipality, Sohar Municipality, Dhofar Municipality, Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, Ministry of Health (medical waste), and petrochemicals companies (oilfield waste), among others. The waste currently ends up in some 350 landfills located around the country.
According to Al Kindi, the disparate policies and processes governing waste management at present will be harmonised and raised to safe, effective and affordable international standards when OESHCO acquires operational charge of the sector. Furthermore, all 350 existing dumpsites, with the exception of a few purpose-built landfills, will have to be eventually closed down. In their place will come up a network of 16 landfills and 65 waste transfer stations that will be engineered and built to international standards. The private sector will also be invited to set up these, as well as five waste treatment plants based on the build-own-operate (BOO) model.
Significantly, management of the waste sector will be regulated by a new sector law presently under preparation by the Government, Al Kindi said. The objective of the sector law is to restructure the waste sector ahead of its eventual privatisation.
Additionally, OESHCO has already started the tender processes for various fast-track projects targeted for implementation under the public-private-partnership (PPP) model, including the establishment of the country’s first National Hazardous Waste Management Project at Adam in the Interior region. A tender for the contract was floated earlier this year, with offer proposals due by July this year, said Al Kindi.
Also envisioned is a Medical Waste Project in Dhofar Governorate to be set up on a fast-task basis.
Also as part of its mandate, OESHCO is drafting a strategy that aims to bring about a drastic reduction in waste generation, while promoting a culture that espouses recycling. “At present, 100 per cent of the waste is disposed of, compared to a very low figure in advanced countries. Our target is to bring about a large reduction in waste generation through waste treatment, recycling initiatives, and possibly looking into the viability of waste-to-energy projects, as well as other initiatives.”