Muscat: Environmentalists in Oman are prompting calls to more than double the fines for littering, following reports of garbage piling up at major tourism sites during public holidays.
According to the law, people who leave trash in public areas face fines of OMR200 to OMR500, with the penalty doubling for repeat offenders.
“Muscat Municipality is prepared to deploy cleaning teams to work round-the-clock and during holidays to catch violators,” Qais bin Suleiman Al Kosheri, Director of the Department of Health Affairs in Muscat Municipality said, adding that people can call the municipality hot-line at 1111 to report littering.
Stay ahead of the rest and download our free WhatsNews app for Apple, Android or Blackberry.
However, many believe that picnickers are not concerned about violating littering laws in Oman.
Frustrated by reports of trash being discarded in popular wadis and beaches in the Sultanate, Hashar Al Munziri, founder of ‘Alamah’ marketing agency, said that traditional awareness campaigns are not effective, comparing them to “shooting in the dark”.
“We need new and smart campaigns to raise awareness about littering and how it harms our country,” Al Munziri said.
The authorities need to impose heavier fines and use social media to report on crackdowns so the public will “learn the hard way”, he added.
Hashar emphasised the importance of having standards to be met at each tourist location, with cleanup teams checking on a daily basis.
When contacted, a Royal Oman Police (ROP) spokesman confirmed that throwing garbage from a vehicle is a traffic violation and a punishable act. “Such acts can be directly reported to the police,” ROP has written on its twitter handle.
Notably, many cattle that die after eating plastic trash can be seen lying along the vast deserts near Bidiya, according to Rashid Al Mughairi, a Bedouin who works in tourism. “It is embarrassing for me that tourists clean up the trash that many Omani families drop during their picnics,” Al Mughairi said.
He said that many shepherds are also cleaning up plastic garbage after holidays.
“They either are not aware or don’t care that littering affects their immediate environment,” said Marlen, a German expatriate, while wondering why personal hygiene is a serious concern in Oman, but does not seem to extend to the surrounding environment.
“People don’t want to picnic surrounded by the rubbish of others, but they also don’t want to remove their own rubbish,” she added.
She noted that authorities in Oman must learn from other countries to create incentives, such as paying small amounts of money to people who collect cans or paper. “Funny enough, many litterbugs dump their trash close to rubbish bins. When no rubbish bin is near, it seems to be a case of here I walk, here I shall litter,” Marlen added.
It is worth mentioning that more than 4,300 rubbish bins were placed at Muscat’s beaches and parks in the past few years.
Croatian resident Irena blamed laziness and the lack of punishments for the growing litter found throughout the country.
Yet Moosa, an Omani citizen from Muscat, said a lack of morals and ignorance of the importance of not littering are the two main reasons behind littering.