Environment Society of Oman – Issues

Litter
Litter is a growing problem in almost every country of the world. Increased global trade in food products and other consumer goods has led to stronger packaging, especially using plastic materials, to ensure goods can travel long distances and arrive in good condition.

Plastic bags are used liberally even for short journeys from the shop to the home. If they are not disposed of properly, they can travel long distances blown by the wind. They can be especially dangerous to children, who have been known to suffocate themselves when playing with them. Ruminants such as camels, cattle, goats and sheep can die when they try to eat them and they enter the rumen. Although most plastics eventually break down in strong sunlight, when buried in soil they do not break down.

When glass bottles are left in the open, they break when vehicles drive over them. Broken glass is a special hazard to children paddling in rock pools in the wadis.

The ring pulls from soft drinks cans are hazardous to animals, when they cut the soft skin between hooves or claws, sometimes leading to serious infection.

Fly-tipping of building rubble makes open spaces unsightly for those who walk there or have family picnics in the shade of trees.

Littering with food waste, despite being biodegradable in the sun and edible to passing goats, can cause health hazards and is especially unpleasant to visitors.

Littering in picnic areas and, especially, on beaches, damages the image of a country for foreign tourists.

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Biodiversity

Threatened Wildlife
Despite much work done over the years, many people are still unfamiliar with Oman’s wildlife species and subspecies and the special threats to their survival.

The globally Endangered Wa’al al ‘Arabi suffers from an image of being ‘just a type of goat’, yet it is one of the rarest species in the world, only occurring in the mountains of northern Oman and the UAE and nowhere else in the world. There are still some people who, in their ignorance, hunt them illegally for their meat.

Predators such as the wild cats: the Critically Endangered Arabian leopard (Nimr al ‘Arabi), the Caracal (‘Anaq/Khuwenq/Hamra) and the Gordon’s wild cat (Sinnamaar) are still sometimes persecuted because they may feed on domestic animals. The Arabian wolf (Dhi’b) is seriously threatened by illegal hunting for the same reason. Many of those who live near their habitats do not understand that these animals are often hungry because there is a shortage of their natural prey – other wild animals. Overgrazing by goats, drought or illegal killing of wild prey species, has upset the Balance of Nature. Predators in the right numbers can be beneficial to domestic livestock by killing diseased or old animals, or removing feral goats from the mountain grazing areas.

Feral Dogs and Cats
Increased numbers of feral cats in populated areas pose a serious threat to the genetic integrity of the Gordon’s wild cat, by interbreeding with it. There is some evidence that wolves can also hybridise with domestic dogs, a number of attacks on domestic flocks believed to have been caused by dog-wolf hybrids, not pure wolves. Certainly there have been many attacks by feral dogs on domestic livestock which have been wrongly blamed on wolves.

Feral dogs and cats may contract Rabies from foxes, mongooses or other animals, spreading it to domestic cats or livestock, posing a further threat to people. Uncontrolled numbers of feral cats in urban areas can spread other diseases. If such animals are trapped and taken to remote places, instead of being disposed of humanely by a veterinary surgeon, they attempt to return home, often suffering or dying of starvation on the way. They also pose a greater risk of spreading disease to wild populations, or hybridising with their wild cousins.

Marine Wildlife
Marine endangered species include all of the five species of sea turtles that occur in Oman, namely the green turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead turtle, olive Ridley turtle and leatherback turtle. There are several other marine species, from invertebrates to large whales, whose survival here remains uncertain, either because their range is very limited (in the case of some endemic corals, for example) or their population numbers are low and they suffer from human activity (such as in the case of humpback whales). More research can help us to better understand which species are in need of special attention.

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Population Growth
The rapid population growth in many countries has resulted in too great a demand on natural resources. This is especially true of desert countries such as Oman, where fertile soil and water are severely limited.

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Water
Oman’s renewable water resources are limited by the lack of rainfall. Fossil supplies, such as that at Saih Masarrat, have taken millions of years to form and are not recharged by rainfall to any significant degree. Thus their availability is limited in the same way as oil and gas reserves.

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Soil
Careless action, such as pouring waste oil from vehicles or waste chemicals on to the ground, instead of disposing of them at official sites, can destroy the agricultural value of soil and cause serious pollution to groundwater aquifers.

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Plants
Native Trees and Other Plants
Omani wild plants use less water, because they have adapted to the desert climate over thousands of years. Likewise they are more likely to be immune to disease than foreign imported trees. They support many other species from microbes, to insects, reptiles, birds and mammals, forming an important part of Oman’s ecosystems. Trees such as the Simr (Acacia tortilis), Ghaf (Prosopis cineraria) and Sidr (Ziziphus spina-christi) play an especially important role in supporting underground organisms, smaller seasonal plants which grow in their shade, insects such as bees, all mammal species using their shade (and leaving fertiliser where they lie) and many bird species. The Sarh (Maerua crassifolia), threatened by livestock browsing because it is so palatable to them, plays a special role in honey production, because it flowers at a different time of year from other trees. This extends the season in which bees can gather nectar to produce their honey.

Hostile Foreign Trees
The Ghaf Bahri (Mesquite) (Prosopos juliflora) is a major issue in Oman and other desert regions. Originally from Mexico, it enables itself to spread rapidly by releasing a chemical from its leaves and flowers which poisons the ground, stopping the seeds of other plants from germinating. In this way it progressively strangles the growth of native plants, taking over large areas of land. Studies abroad have shown that it can cause allergies among some people who sit in its shade or move near it.

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The Landscape
The landscape is often regarded as a subjective issue, rather than one that is important to the quality of life, or to tourism. Just as a littered beach is unsightly to the tourist, so also a cluttered landscape can affect the visitor’s impression of a country as a whole. Further more, just as initial litter usually attracts more litter, so also cluttering of landscape can lead to more, with the effect that respect for the area affected may diminish.

Some people regard all new structures as symbols of modern development, and old buildings as less important because they are relics of the past. The overseas tourist looks for the image of a country that is different from others. Oman has special qualities amongst both its natural and cultural landscapes. There is an ongoing issue of compatibility between modern development in landscapes and preservation of natural and cultural ones. As tourism is now an essential component of a sustainable economy for the future, landscape issues become more economically important.

Overhead electricity lines on brightly painted pylons have a major impact on rural areas.

This piece is taken from the website of the Environment Society of Oman.

See on-line at: http://www.environment.org.om/issues.php

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One Response to “Environment Society of Oman – Issues”

  1. rachita Says:

    hi

    wow i am doing an exhibition about littering. this really helped me.

    thanks

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