Persian Gulf Pollution Plight Persists

Persian Gulf Pollution Plight PersistsPersian Gulf Pollution Plight Persists

The oil-rich Persian Gulf is grappling with manmade pollution, as a result of both marine- and land-based activities among others. Swift action is therefore necessary to reduce the pollution and preserve its fragile ecosystem.

Supplying about 30% of global oil demand, the Persian Gulf provides high quality oil extracted with less effort, and therefore less expense, compared to the other parts of the world.

The Persian Gulf is connected to international waters through the Strait of Hormuz. “Roughly 14 million barrels of oil are supplied to the international markets every day, and 50,000 vessels - mostly oil tankers – traverse between the Persian Gulf and international waters annually,” Zia’odin Almasi, an official at the DoE’s department of marine environment, told IRNA.

He added: “Yet, all the activities iseem to have taken a toll on the sea’s vulnerable ecosystem. Most activities taking place in the waters of the Persian Gulf are not environmentally friendly.” The ecosystem is adversely affected by factors including sea-based activities (e.g. oil exploration and its associated risks), land-based activities (e.g. wastewater), and overfishing, all of which contribute to habitat destruction.

“In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War - which led to the liberation of Kuwait - retreating Iraqi troops opened the valves on oil rigs and pipelines, causing 9 million barrels of oil to enter the Persian Gulf,” said Almasi.

The spill – one of the worst in history, and seemingly worse than the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico according to CNN - devastated marine wildlife and coastal habitats in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

After oil spills, untreated wastewater constitutes the biggest threat to the Persian Gulf. “Industrially active countries around the gulf are responsible for the vast majority of wastewater that finds its way into the gulf. In Iran, Khormusa, Imam Khomeini Port, the city of Bushehr, and Nayband Gulf are among the most polluted areas.”

In Hormozgan Province, 80% of the industrial units are equipped with wastewater treatment systems. “The same cannot be said about Khuzestan Province, where the highest amount of industrial wastewater in the country is produced,” Almasi asserted, adding: “Only 40% of the province’s industrial units have the equipment to treat wastewater.”

Even though industrial wastewater is properly treated in Hormozgan Province, municipal wastewater is not treated to the same standard.

  Collaborative Action

In April 1978, the Kuwait Regional Convention was adopted by the eight countries of the region, aimed at reducing oil pollution, industrial waste, and wastewater to help preserve the Persian Gulf’s ecosystem.

The convention led to the creation of the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) in 1979, the establishment of the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre (MEMAC) in 1982, and the adoption of four protocols addressing marine emergencies, hazardous wastes, land-based activities and sea-based pollution. The Kuwait Convention and its protocols have made a substantial positive impact towards the protection of the marine environment and coastal areas from pollution.

“The DoE is cooperating with ROPME in several areas, particularly in wastewater management, “Almasi said, adding: “The department is also lending its support to the oil ministry to help finish the construction of several refineries, which had stalled due to a lack of capital.”

The DoE is setting up online monitoring systems to pinpoint sources of pollution, allowing the department to react quickly, according to the official. “We are also cooperating with the Ports and Maritime Organization to equip ships with systems to treat ballast water discharges.”

The department is also collaborating with the oil ministry to reduce industrial waste, particularly in the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors.