Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries must make collective efforts to control the flow of pollutants into the common waters of the Arabian Gulf, a top official of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs of Oman said yesterday.
"I urge the GCC countries to build up the essential reception facility to receive all kind of wastes coming from the ships. The wastes may include oil, ballast water and sewage from the ships," Colonel Suleiman M Al Busaidy, Superintendent, General Pollution Control at the Ministry, said at the Offshore Arabia Conference in Dubai.
The GCC countries, home to world's two-third reserves of hydrocarbons, see heavy traffic of ships that tend to discharge effluents into waters when denied a "reception facility" at the ports.
A reception facility at a port involves installation of equipment that help a ship discharge its effluents. Such a facility, Al Busaidy said, costs about $10 million (Dh36.72m). "It's a small amount."
He said the GCC countries have been relatively slow to wake up to the idea of effluents impacting their common "territorial" waters. "What impacts one country in the region impacts every other country," he added.
Effluents, particularly by ships, are a grave threat to the fisheries industry in the region which, he said, account for a trade of "millions of dollars". "Fisheries industry is very important to the region. For people, it's more important than even the oil industry," he said.
Al Busaidy said countries in the region were slow receptors of the Marpol convention that lays down specific rules for preventing discharge of effluents into territorial waters. "There are GCC countries that have signed the MAPLE agreement two years earlier. One country signed it just the last year," he said.
Marpol convention was signed in 1973 with an objective to prevent pollution from ships.
Heads of GCC states, Iran and Iraq signed a regional agreement called Ropme (Regional Organisation For Protection of Marine Environment) for preventing the pollution of region's common waters in 1979, but that has not been effective in preventing ships from discharging effluents in the region.
"It does not impose penalties on those who default," Al Busaidy said.
Al Busaidy called upon GCC countries to refrain from constructing artificial islands and said it alters the natural flow of water.