The Oman Environmental Services Holding Company – known as be’ah – is close to completing the transfer of waste management operations to international operators in each of its 11 governorates. The move is part of a waste management plan to modernise and restructure the handling, treatment and disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW), expanding Oman’s recycling capacity and waste-based energy generation.

Companies that have been awarded contracts include Spain’s Urbaser, currently working for the Al Batinah South governorate; Dubai-headquartered Averda, which won the contract to manage Ad Dakhiliyah and Dhofar; and a joint venture between Oman’s Al Ramooz and France’s Veolia for operations at Al Dhahirah and Buraimi. Al Batinah North and Musandam will be operated by a consortium of Oman’s Khimji Ramdas, the UAE’s Imdaad and India’s Ramky Enviro Engineers. South Al Sharqiyah has been awarded to Suma from Portugal. Details of the two biggest contracts – for operations in Muscat – are still to be announced.

Part of the handover process includes a move by be’ah to permanently close all of the country’s 317 dump sites, which have been deemed both environmentally and hygienically unsuitable. The dump sites will then be replaced by 10 or 11 engineered landfill sites, and between 18 and 25 transfer stations. Over 220 dump sites have already been closed, with the remainder set for closure by early 2019, according to Mohammed Sulaiman Al Harthy, executive vice-president for strategic development at be’ah.

Alternative Approaches

The transfer of MSW management to the private sector is a key step in Oman’s strategy to transform its waste into something of economic and environmental benefit. be’ah aims to divert 60% of waste away from landfills, which includes converting waste to energy to water, biogas and other sustainable alternatives by 2022, with the figure rising to 80% by 2040. Currently, 100% of waste goes directly to landfills. In the longer term, Oman is pursuing a wide range of approaches to waste processing. Studies are being carried out for a number of programmes, including waste-to-energy and biogas projects. Raising public awareness will also be key. “As Oman’s waste management sector works to divert waste away from landfills to sorting facilities, achieving this goal will depend on the efforts of waste operators” Youssef Barake, managing director of Averda told OBG. “Nevertheless, it will also depend on investing in public awareness about best practices and in developing waste segregation at the household.” A two-bin recycling system will be implemented nationwide following the formal handover of MSW services to private players, which is expected to be completed in the next few years. One of the success stories of the waste management policy has been in the health care sector, which now processes approximately 100% of health care waste at three facilities in Muscat, Dhofar and Al Batinah North.

Rising Water Demand

Waste is also seen as a solution to the sultanate’s rising water demands. be’ah has completed feasibility studies for a waste-to-energy-to-water programme, for which the authorities are expected to float a tender in 2018 and begin operations by 2021. “Developing a waste-to-energy-to-water programme is of national importance,” Al Harthy told OBG. “The programme should be operational by 2021 and could supply a substantial amount of Oman’s water needs.” To meet demand for potable water – reported to be rising by 15% every year the Public Authority for Electricity and Water – recently rebranded as Diam – has announced plans to implement water projects worth over $83m, including six new reservoirs and improvements to water distribution infrastructure.

Operations in the Qurayyat water desalination plant, which has the capacity to produce 200,000 cu metres of water per day, were planned to begin in late 2017, followed by a 281,000-cu-metre-per-day desalination plant in Barka and a 250,000 cu-metre-per-day desalination plant at Sohar in 2018, according to local media.