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Development plans need to factor in rise in sea-level, floods, storm-surge

6 Oct 2021 By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – With Oman’s population set to grow in the future, development in the coastal areas as well as in high-risk flood-prone zones is likely to increase, too. This puts large parts of the population at risk from floods, storm surges and rising sea level.

‘There are substantial amounts of vulnerable urban infrastructure located in close proximity to flood-prone areas, or subject to coastal inundation and storm surge associated with sea-level rise. And with climate change, Oman’s low-lying urban areas along the coast will be vulnerable to flooding from the combined impact of sea-level rise and storm surge associated with extreme weather events. Hence Oman’s development plans for urban areas and infrastructure should be re-evaluated to account for these risks,’ according to Oman’s Second National Communication 2019 report submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

According to the report, coastal development has increased dramatically over recent decades in Oman, a trend that seems certain to continue through the 21st century with the majority of the Omani population living in low-lying areas such as coastal plains which are considered high-risk flood-prone zones. ‘Moreover, more than half of the population is concentrated in Muscat and in the Batinah coastal plain.’

During the recent tropical cyclone Shaheen, most of the damage was in Batinah region, in the towns of Mussanah, Suwaiq, Saham and Khabourah – all lying on coastal plains. Eleven people died in the wake of the cyclone which caused widespread flooding and landslides with seven of them dying in the Batinah region.

An environmental expert had recently warned of extreme weather events impacting Oman with continued global warming.

“Global warming and climate pollutants have dangerous effects on the climate. These are the reasons why we are recording a continuous rise in temperatures, decrease in annual rainfall, and increase in heat waves in the sultanate,” Dr Yassin al Sharabi, director of Centre for Environmental Studies and Research at Sultan Qaboos University, said in an interview with Oman TV weeks before Shaheen hit Oman.

He warned that cyclonic activity in the Arabian Sea will increase to record levels which may result in vast destruction. “Extreme weather phenomena, like Cyclone Gonu, may become repetitive due to climate change,” said Dr Sharabi, adding that climate change will affect many regions in Oman according to several studies on the challenges that may arise due to climate change.

Urban expansion in Oman has not accounted for historical risks of flooding, much less the greater flooding risks that will accompany climate change.

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