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Integrated management of pollution stress in the Gulf

  • Nuzrat Yar Khan

Abstract

Rapid coastal development in the Gulf countries has caused considerable ecological stress and many coastal habitats have begun to show symptoms of ecological imbalance associated with multiple stressors caused by pollution and habitat destruction. Major sources of pollution in the Gulf include oil production, exploration, and transportation; and municipal and petrochemical industry effluents. Oil pollution, however, remains the major environmental issue in the Gulf. Reliable data on the distribution and background levels of pollutants in the Gulf are generally lacking and are patchy at best. Available information suggests that levels of hydrocarbons and heavy metal in the offshore areas are generally not alarming, but levels of pollutants in inshore areas have a number of “hot spots” associated with urban centres and industrial complexes. Although little information is available with respect to the levels of nutrients in the Gulf, there is some evidence of eutrophication in coastal areas where untreated or partially treated sewage is discharged. Levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are generally low, but show a decreasing north-south spatial trend. Being a low-energy, semi-enclosed sea with limited water exchange with the Indian Ocean, the Gulf ecosystem provides ideal conditions for particulate and pollutant deposition. However, precise prediction and validation of sediment and pollutant budgets, and pollutant transport is not possible because of a lack of reliable data on 1) the distribution of pollutants in various compartments of the Gulf ecosystem, 2) circulation in the northern Gulf for different winds and seasons, 3) over- the-water stress and energy fluxes, 4) accurate evaporation rates through direct measurements, and 5) a better understanding of the circulations in the Gulf of Oman, their seasonal and spatial variations, and the exchange of water with the strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea. In view of the complex, dynamic, and semienclosed nature of the Gulf ecosystem where ecological boundaries transcend arbitrary political boundaries, we conclude that an integrated ecosystem approach to managing the Gulf is an imperative for the Gulf nations. Its adoption in the true spirit of the Kuwait Convention would foster a common understanding of regional issues and a shared vision of the strategic importance of Gulf’s resources by the Gulf nations. This paper discusses the opportunities that need to be seized and the constraints that need to be dealt with in the application of the ecosystem approach on a Gulf-wide basis.

Keywords

Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon Environmental Impact Assessment Ballast Water Integrate Management Environmental Impact Assessment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Birkhäuser Verlag/Switzerland 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nuzrat Yar Khan
    • 1
  1. 1.Habitat Management and Sustainable DevelopmentFisheries and Oceans CanadaOttawaCanada

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