The Regional Conference on the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment (ROPME) is responsible for the protection and sustenance of environment and marine ecology in the coastal areas of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. ROPME is responsible for the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols of the Kuwait Action Plan (KAP) which oversees the environment programme in these waters.
The KAP was drawn up in the Kuwait Regional cooperation in 1978 with the close cooperation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The Secretariat of ROPME is based in Kuwait. The Kuwait Regional Convention for Co-operation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution, and the Protocol concerning Regional Co-operation in Combating Pollution by Oil and other Harmful Substances in Cases of Emergency and the ROPME Sea Area forms the important components of this body.
The ROPME Sea Area consisting of the coastal areas of the 8 Member States of the Gulf region is richly endowed with natural resources and biological diversity. With over “twenty species of dolphin and whale, all the five subtropical species of turtles, and more than a thousand species of fish” and sprawl of wetlands, waterfowl, mangroves with enormous aquatic life forms and dependent terrestrial life, the importance of this region can’t be understated. Even half of the world’s planktonic cysts are located in the region. One of nature’s wonders is Oman’s Masirah Island which is one of the two locations of the world with the largest numbers of loggerhead turtles.
The area is crisscrossed with shipping lanes, being one of the busiest trade areas of the world due to the presence of rich reserves of oil and gas. The coast is dotted with ports and oil wells. These land-based activities like the release of industrial sewage, dredging of the coast near ports, reclamation activities, etc prove to be a major disrupter to marine life. The abundance of oil drilling, ships carrying oil, seepage and accidents cause massive harm to marine life. 23 per cent of the oil production happens in this region and half of the ships transit through this region.
These factors make the ROPME as a dedicated body to survey and maintain ecology important. The operational activities of the ROPME range from monitoring of the land-based activities posing a threat to marine ecology, sat-based monitoring of the coast, contaminant screening in terms of pollutants including biological and chemical contamination, environmental management activities and regional contingency plans.
To carry out these activities, the ROPME is divided into three organs namely the Council, Secretariat, and Judicial Commission. The legal documents involve combating oil leakage, marine pollution, continental shelf run-off pollution, tracking the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes, and the establishment of protected areas. The ROPME is actively involved in five Regional Action Plans like Ecosystem-based Management, Sand and Dust Storms, Marine Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Eutrophication and Harmful Algal Blooms.
The ROPME overlooks the straits with enormous importance. The environment is of wide importance to marine life in the Indian Ocean region. The prevalence of oil and industrial containers with high density makes the waters vulnerable to accidents and hazardous materials like Oil spilling into the Ocean and washing ashore. The devastation caused by such a spillage will swamp the coasts with layers of oil killing all marine life and permanently alter the ecology.
The cooperation of the Member countries is important to maintain the sanctity of the environment despite the geopolitical difficulties. The United Nations’ focus on climate and the shift to clean energy will slowly take the pressure off the region. Even the richer Arab states have started a timely plan to transition to clean technology. The economic profitability from pristine beaches, diverse marine parks and tourism is now seen as more important to respective local governments.
The ROPME oversees the busiest transitional zone of the world. The cooperation among the states with other regional blocs and the UN served the interests of wider humanity. Marine living organisms maintain the coastal ecology and make the coastal landforms livable. The ROPME will play a vital role in shaping the region’s approach to counter climate change.
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