Monday, June 17, 2024 | Dhu al-hijjah 10, 1445 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Weathering the storm

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Threats arising from climate change are nothing new to the Sultanate of Oman.


Recent experiences with cyclones show the potential impact of extreme climatic events in urban areas with a high loss of lives, destruction of infrastructure and economic damage.


When it comes to urban infrastructure, they are vulnerable to climate change impacts associated with sea-level rise and tropical cyclones. In addition, flash flooding magnitude and frequency could increase in the future from heavy rainfall events.


Al Batinah North is considered the most exposed of the coastal governorates to the tropical storms caused by climate change. Muscat, Sur and Salalah are also highly vulnerable.


Urban development in the country has largely focused on the coast during the past five decades, a trend that seems certain to continue through the 21st century. Coastal population growth has led to widespread conversion of natural coastal landscapes to industrial and residential uses.


There are seven governorates with coastal borders, namely: Musandam, North Al Batinah, South Al Batinah and Muscat along the Sea of Oman; and Al Wusta and Dhofar along the Arabian Sea.


Approximately 48 per cent of the total built-up area of the seven coastal governorates has been developed within a 200 metre distance from the shoreline.


According to a feature published in The New Arab, a London-based news website, the Sultanate of Oman needs to enforce national standards for building and architectural design.


Quoting experts, the feature urges buildings to be equipped to withstand rising temperatures and extreme weather events like cyclones, stressing that the current infrastructure is not cyclone-resistant.


“Oman needs to enforce national standards for building and architectural design, which require buildings to be equipped to withstand rising temperatures and extreme weather events like cyclones’’, it says quoting experts.


In 2019 the government declared a strategy for climate change adaptation and mitigation to be a national goal, in order to reduce the threat to water resources, tourism, infrastructure and people’s health.


According to Sultanate of Oman’s Second National Communication report, urban expansion in the cities has typically not accounted well for even historical flooding risks, much less the greater flooding risks accompanying climate change.


“Today, the impact of floods in the built-up area of Suhar Wilayat, Saham, Al Khabourah, Al Suwaiq and Muscat can wreak havoc on transportation and power systems. These risks have increased substantially over the past 50 years’’, the report points out.


The report calls for steps that will focus on knowledge generation, capacity building, and improved governance and planning.


The report recommends ensuring that all hazard maps are updated to reflect designs of extreme events under climate change to manage climate change risks to urban areas, touristic facilities and infrastructure.


In addition, there should be update on coastal zone setback line to incorporate climate change risks to infrastructure, steps to ensure that existing infrastructure which are exposed to unacceptable climate change risks are evaluated to address subsequent rehabilitation or other risk-reducing options; and conducting climate change impact assessment by tourist region, focusing on the most vulnerable sectors and locations.


To strengthen capacity to assess the vulnerability of urban areas, touristic facilities, and infrastructure, the report favours improving ministry-level technical capacity for conducting climate change impact studies using state-of-the-art methods and tools, facilitating the exchange of experience and knowledge with other countries.


@samkuttyvp


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