Recso urges action to safeguard Gulf coasts

Body set up by regional oil & gas producers says more must be done to keep the Gulf clean.

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By  J Shankar Published  August 16, 2005

The UAE is expected to invest at least US $46 billion over the next decade in environmental and pollution control projects, according to World Bank estimates. Last month, the UAE also signed the Marpol treaty, which will prevent ships from discharging their ballast water and oil onto the seas of the gulf coast. However, despite these treaties and laws, the gulf coast is still miles away from being a clean one. According to Khamis Bu Amim, chairman, Regional Clean Seas Organisation (Recso), “signing an agreement or an international law does not necessarily mean following it.” He argues that ultimately it is people who manage organisations, so it is essential they are taught to follow laws, in letter and spirit. Recso was set up in 1972 by 13 founder members, mainly oil companies in the region that recognised a need for collective responses to major oil pollution incidents. Last month, Bu Amim was at the beach in Jumeirah monitoring a six-hour, mock oil spill cleanup organised by Recso, primarily for its member companies. The drill was an IMO Tier 2 response, which saw about fifty people participating, including personnel from Dubai Dry Docks. This is the third such exercise that Recso is holding this year for its mission of a ‘clean Gulf’. Bu Amim, also the vice president of Dubai Petroleum Company, says that oil companies in the last fifteen years have changed their attitude towards environmental issues for the better. Still, he stresses the need to make individuals and companies more aware of the repercussions of environmental disasters and create a climate that encourages best practices. “Laws and penalties are not sufficient to discourage people from polluting. First, they must be made accountable and second, they must be given incentives or at least cost effective solutions,” he says. Bu Amim suggests measures that could attract ships to actually recycle oil, instead of dumping it in the seas. “As an example, harbours could attract more ships to recycling facilities if they provide subsidised or free facilities, which would, apart from creating enthusiasm, also compensate the concerned ship owner for the cost of recycling the oil,” he explains. In all this, Recso’s main concern is the water of the gulf, and the fact that it is the source for the desalination plants that supply drinking water. “In the Gulf, we talk a lot about the environment, but very little is actually done,” says the Recso chairman. “There is a time to talk and a time to do something. We have to find people who are committed to the cause. Imagine a day without the Gulf coast or its water and you will know why I am so worried,” he concludes.

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