Dr Ali bin Masoud al Sunaidy, Chairman of the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ), issued a decision regulating procedures covering the issuance of environmental permits in the special economic zones and free zones in the Sultanate, Oman Obsever reports.
Lubna bint Hamoud al Sabariyah (pictured), Environmental Specialist at the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones, pointed out that the decision applies to all projects developed in the special economic zones and free zones.
It specified the procedures for obtaining environmental permits, as well as identified the projects that require preparing a detailed environmental assessment study for their potential impacts.
According to the decision, the projects established in the special economic zones and free zones have been classified into three categories based on their impacts to the environment and health of human beings, based on their nature, location, materials used in production and production capacity.
The First Category includes high-risk projects, as identified in Annex 1.
These projects are required to submit their environmental and social impacts assessment study.
Among the most prominent projects of this category are those related to the development and management of industrial plans, logistics storage sites, fishing ports and fish industries complexes, tourist villages with an area of 10 hectares or more, chemicals and oil storage tanks of around 5 hectares and more, heavy industries, oil refineries, chemical and petrochemical industries, power plants, seawater desalination plants with a production capacity of over one million cubic metres per year, and fish farming projects with a production capacity of more than 500 tonnes per year for the localised fish and any quantity of unusual species.
The Second Category includes projects with medium environmental risk, which require submitting environmental management plan.
However, the Third Category is for projects with low environmental risk, requiring compliance with the specified general and technical environmental requirements, while submitting an environmental and social impact assessment study or an environmental management plan is not required.
Commenting on this decision, Lubna al Sabariyah, stated, “Through this decision, OPAZ is intending to facilitate the procedures for investors and accelerate the issuance of environmental permits. For instance, the environmental permits for projects falling into the second and third categories are issued prior to establishing the projects.
These permits will be issued in five working days for the Third Category projects, while it takes ten 10 working days for the Second Category projects. However, for the projects that require developing an environmental assessment study, it takes a maximum of 30 working days for reviewing the environmental permit applications.”