By Yeru Ebuen —
Every year, the Environment Society of Oman does not fail in inviting people to join Earth Hour. Without fail, they organise press conferences — the latest one held recently at the Cultural Club in Qurum.
They also partner with different agencies, reach out to news organisations, approach big businesses and even get the word out into the streets to affect change. Their goal is multifold but the core of it is to let people know that a problem affecting the environment exist and that there is something — no matter how little — that can be done about it.
In a press statement, ESO executive director, Lamees Daar, shared that for the past six years, their organisation “have joined millions around the world to shine a light on the most important issues threatening the planet.”
He said, “We are uniting with people from every walk of life and the international community to observe Earth Hour. We all share one planet and only by working together can we preserve it for future generations.”
For all their efforts, for years of calling people into arms, of knocking into Oman’s residents’ consciousness, is Earth Hour gaining ground in the Sultanate?
There are myriads of activities organised in order to get people to move and participate. As the earthhour.org/oman has noted, their yearly activities are often divided into four programmes.
They kick off with College Awareness Events — targeting student volunteers within colleges and universities to make a pledge to turn off their lights and have their own earth hour events.
They follow it up with Large Scale 2 Week media campaign — where they targeted newspapers, magazines, radio, social media and billboards organisation to do their part in spreading the word and make sure that the Eart Hour will not get unnoticed.
Then they move to the “Encourage Oman to “Switch Off” programme, where they ask companies, individuals, the government sector and schools to commit to “turning off all non-essential lighting during Earth Hour March 19th 2016 between 8:30 – 9:30 pm.”
And their final activity is the Annual Earth Hour Event where even kids with the support of their parents are encourage to participate.
ESO has partnered with Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa this year with Daar sharing that they were working together for a more interactive Earth Hour event.
Daar added, “Together, we are building an even bigger and more engaging programme this year for what we anticipate to be the largest number of participants yet.” Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa director of CSR & Sustainability Rasha al Madani, said that commemorating Earth Hour 2017 and its partnership with ISO is a reflection of “our long-held belief in being responsible stewards of the environment. As members of the tourism sector, we have an essential role to play in maintaining the natural environment of the Sultanate and will continue to honour that responsibility in the years to come.”
Over the last five years, Earth Hour has gained the support of tourist-centric businesses like Oman Avenues Mall, Muscat Grand Mall, Park Inn Hotel, Al Bustan Palace among others, banks like Oman Arab Bank and HSBC, and even those from the gas sector like Oman Oil Marketing Company among others.
In 2016, it even made a huge difference that the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House Muscat were seen shutting down all of their non-essential lights.
In 2016 Earth Hour, Oman Electricity Transmission Company (OETC) has reported that about 169,000kW of electricity was saved. This is only for the Muscat area.
Ali Al Hadabi, CEO of OETC, in a press interview with Gulf News, has noted that between the hours of 8.30pm to 9:30pm on March 19, 2016 about 6.1 per cent more of electricity was saved compared with the 7:30pm to 8:30pm time slot.
Comparing 2014 and 2015 data, ESO shared that Oman saved 136,000kW in 2015 compared to 2014’s 90,000kW. About 33,000kW were saved when 2015 and 2016 data were compared. This is a clear indication that Earth Hour is gaining ground in Oman.
With ESO strengthening their campaign in 2017, it would be interesting to see how much energy will be saved for this year’s Earth Hour.
“I think this small gesture of support for our environment goes a long way,” shared Mutya Cabansal, an Oman expat who has been in the country for three years.
“Coming from a country that has hugely felt the effect of climate change, every little gesture matters. Even here in Oman, it is easy to see how climate change is affecting the weather,” Cabansal, who hailed from the Philippines, said.
“I’ve been to different parts of the world. I have seen how drastic countries changed environment-wise in just a short span of time. It’s scary to think what would happen in the future if we don’t give back to the environment today,” said flight attendant Lucybel Mallari.
Both women shared Earth Hour is definitely something they support and that they go beyond by making sure that non-essential lights are turned off in their homes even on non-Earth Hour times.
While Cabansal and Mallari are devoted to their commitment to the environment, the question remains whether other residents of the Sultanate will follow suit.
The true test of ESO’s efforts are to be seen at the evening of March 25. How many of your neighbors turned their lights off as a gesture of support? And perhaps, the most interesting question is, did you turn off yours?
If majority of the people in your area still have their lights on during Earth Hour, then a great deal of work is still to be made.
But it is poised for success if the support starts from you.