Flooding remains big issue for Oman

Dr Aisha Mufti Al Qurashi, an adviser at the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, at the first annual drainage rehabilitation and flood control conference, which opened at Golden Tulip Seeb Hotel on Monday. Photo – Supplied

Muscat: Tougher rules are required for proper implementation of plans to protect the Sultanate from flooding, which were devised in the wake of Gonu, says a government official.

"The Gonu experience, from one point of view, was a big disaster and it cost a lot to rebuild the infrastructure. But on the other hand, it was very useful as it taught everybody a lesson, (especially) those who did not believe what we used to say," Dr Aisha Mufti Al Qurashi, an adviser at the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources told the Times of Oman in an interview.

She made the remarks on the sidelines of the first two-day annual drainage rehabilitation and flood control conference, which opened at Golden Tulip Seeb Hotel on Monday. The event was attended by a number of local and international representatives.

Al Qurashi said that Oman is an arid country and is not subject to frequent floods but when flooding happens, it can be very severe and has the potential to cause several problems.

The disaster caused by Gonu in 2007 forced all the government bodies to join hands and made them think that they should be more careful in planning and issuing permits, she said.

Experts call for proper drainage system of infrastructure project
They also realised the necessity of including drainage system in the projects,  she added.

She noted that a large budget was allocated after the incident for the implementation of reconstruction projects as well as protecting the existing infrastructure and future developments.

According to her, Gonu, which hit Muscat and Al Sharqiyah, caused the most severe damage to Muscat properties and infrastructure, up to 714mm of rainfall in 24 hours and up to 1,033mm in 34 hours, and about 8,160m3/s flood peak was recorded. The most recent flood event was Phet, which hit Al Sharqiyah and Muscat in 2010.

Cooperation needed
Al Qurashi said that many government bodies have been given the task to deal with flood-related issues, including the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, the Ministry of Housing and the Supreme Council.  All these organisations need to work in tandem and should fulfil their responsibilities, she said, adding that the Ministry of Water Resources has done its best to do its share of work.

The official noted that the ministry has a responsibility of conducting studies, developing policies and introducing standards and has an advisory role rather than a supervisory role.

The developers and other officials concerned should cooperate with the ministry and help implement these policies, she said.

Al Qurashi added that developers used to ignore the officials' advice and some used to even joke that no flood has occurred here and 'we should pray to God for rain' but now they have become more cautious on construction works in the wadi channels.

Stricter rules
On the need for strict rules regarding drainage and flood protection, she said, "I think more teeth should be given to this because we have guidelines. We are providing advice. We have policies. We have standards. But they should be checked more seriously." For this, stricter rules are required and should be fully enforced, she said, noting that there should be fines and punishment for those who flout the law.

Otherwise, rules will be ignored, she added.

Forgetful developers
According to her, there are some people who tend to forget the things after a while and may do whatever possible and use every 'wasta' they have to get the approval they need despite being warned against it.

Additionally, Al Qurashi said that further development in flood-prone areas should be prevented as it is only going to make the situation worse.  

"We should not allow more encroachment on wadi channels," she noted, adding that such constructions will only undermine protection measures and will make the projects costlier.

New dams
Asked about dam construction projects, she said that there are already 14 protection dams, 43 recharge dams, and 91 small storage dams as well as Wadi Dayqah Dam and more dams have been approved to be built in the coming years. Commenting on old buildings, the official said that it is the responsibility of both the owners and the government to protect them by raising the ground level or diverting the wadi channels or other measures.

She also said that the Ministry of Water Resources has provided advice to those involved in the construction of the new airports about flood-related issues.  

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