Saudi Arabia Releases 9 New Environmental LawsJan 26th, 2013 | By Sanaa Chakibi | Category: Environmental Management
This article summarizes 9 new environmental laws issued by Saudi Arabia in 2012 and provides links to the legislation in English.
Saudi Arabia has acted with urgency to develop a comprehensive framework for measuring and monitoring activities that cause environmental degradation. Its actions include measures to ensure efficient use of natural resources, prevention of depletion, and implementation of sustainable development. Saudi Arabia has adopted a comprehensive list of Standards and Guidelines. It regulated matters ranging from air pollution, to wastewater management, to transportation of chemicals; sustainability was an important principle incorporated in these measures.
Significant new environmental laws in Saudi Arabia are summarized below.
Ambient Air Standard 2012
Ambient Air Standard 2012 was published and made mandatory on March 24, 2012. The Standard relates specifically to the ambient air quality in Saudi Arabia. The Standard prescribes limit values for ambient air quality parameters and establishes the responsibilities of the Presidency of Metrology and Environment (PME) with regard to managing ambient air quality in the kingdom. The Standard aims to provide a basis for the maintenance and restoration of ambient air quality in an effort to prevent or reduce harmful effects on human health and the environment. It introduces new limits for companies that are required to manage their emissions. However, if the company performs one of the exempted activities, the limits stated by this Standard would not apply. The Standard exempts from limitations dispersion zones (which are authorized by the PME), indoor air, and natural events. A different Standard on air adopted on the same day and made mandatory for all new equipment relates to the control of emissions from mobile sources.
Standard on Emissions from Mobile Sources 2012
The Standard on Mobile Sources Emissions requires companies to reduce their emissions to the levels required and to properly maintain their equipment to ensure emissions reduction. The Standard presents a framework for a sustainable management of mobile sources. It sets out emission limit values depending upon the engine type and capacity. Companies are required to ensure that the emissions of their mobile sources are in compliance with the emission limits for all new equipment. However, for existing equipment they have five years to bring their emissions in line with the limits stated. The Standard introduces emission limits for pieces of equipment used outdoors and aims at protecting, maintaining, and improving the environment and public health. The mobile sources include those such as mobile generators, agricultural machinery, and large earthmoving equipment. The emission limits include those for diesel engines, small and large gasoline engines, and recreational vehicles not included in Saudi Arabia Standard Organization (SASO) Standards.
General Environmental Standard for Noise 2012
The General Environmental Standard for Noise of 2012, which introduced noise emission limits, was made mandatory on March 24, 2012. The Standard regulates community noise, noise from industrial units in areas set aside primarily for industrial facilities, noise from construction activities, noise from vehicles (including motorized vessels and recreational craft), and noise from equipment used outdoors. The Standard issued by the PME provides a basis for statutory control to restrict and reduce the nuisance caused by environmental noise. It must be noted that the Standard does not address the issue of occupational noise, which is regulated by the National Health and Safety Laws. Furthermore, the Standard does not extend to noise related to public transportation, including noise from highways and railways, and noise from commercial and private aircraft, including helicopters, both in flight and operating on the ground, as well as to some other activities that are exempt, including calls for prayer and sports events.
National Ambient Water Quality Standard of 2012
The Standard sets forth a framework for the sustainable management of ambient water quality by protecting the water supply and the natural aquatic environment. It provides, additionally, a basis for the restoration of water used for recreational, agricultural, industrial, potable, and ecological purposes. This Standard applies to all coastal and underground water and includes any surface freshwater that may be present permanently or temporarily. On March 24, 2012, the National Ambient Water Quality Standard for Saudi Arabia adopted by the Presidency of Metrology and Environment became effective. The ambient water covered by the Standard includes coastal and underground water and any surface freshwater that may be present permanently or temporarily.
Wastewater Discharge Standard of 2012
Companies and persons discharging wastewater are now subject to the Wastewater Discharge Standard as of March 24, 2012. The Standard aims at enabling Saudi Arabia to reach its ambient water quality objectives. The Standard sets out use-related criteria and specific limits on individual discharges designed to protect water quality. Liquid waste generators are required to comply with the emissions limits, permit requirements, as well as any reuse or conservation requirements. Notably, if a facility cannot restrict its emissions to the limits stated in the Standard, it is required to obtain a permit by June 24, 2012. The Wastewater Discharge Standard applies to liquid emissions generated by persons or facilities. It is intended to improve wastewater management in Saudi Arabia without increasing the financial burden on companies.
Technical Guideline of 2012 on the Prevention of Major Accidents
In the case of activities involving the manufacturing, processing, using, storing, or otherwise handling of dangerous substances irrespective of their size or location, it is now required to take necessary actions to prevent major accidents, such as the release of toxic materials, the release of flammable materials, fires, explosions, major structural failures, and any accident that involves dangerous substances. The Standard is mandatory for all facilities storing or handling hazardous chemicals in excess of the threshold values. The Technical Guideline on the Prevention of Major Accidents intends to reduce and prevent accidents involving dangerous substances. The Guideline states that there are different categories of companies varying from lower tier to higher tier based on the threshold levels. The Standard entered into force on March 24, 2012.
Standard on Waste Transportation 2012
Hazardous, non-hazardous, and inert waste transporters must comply with the updated Framework for Waste Transportation in Saudi Arabia. The Standard on Waste Transportation adopted by the Presidency of Metrology and Environment intends to monitor and control waste movement to protect both human health and the environment, as well as to provide consistent standard requirements for hazardous substances regarding the classification and labeling of waste to facilitate the movement of waste and dangerous goods inside and outside the country. Companies are now required to comply with the labeling and classification requirements regarding the waste transported, necessary documentation for the waste transported, vehicle safety, and the drivers’ training and certification. The Standard‘s main purpose is to reduce road accidents involving waste transporters, to provide waste transporters with a consistent system regarding waste classification and waste labeling, to facilitate transboundary waste movement, as well as to simplify waste transportation processes to ensure easier compliance.
Waste Treatment and Disposal
Environmental Standards on Material Recovery and Recycling of Waste 2012
Companies operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia might have to comply in the near future with the new waste disposal and treatment procedures. The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment has issued a guidance document which is intended to be the foundation for the development of best environmental practices in relation to waste recovery and recycling. Although the document does not have a direct impact on industries, since it is based on the internationally recognized waste management hierarchy including prevention, recycling, treatment, and disposal, it might serve as the basis for the adoption of future provisions impacting all industry sectors. The Environmental Standards on Material Recovery and Recycling of Waste became effective March 24, 2012.
Biological Treatment Standard of 2012
Biological treatment and incineration facilities must comply with a series of new requirements relating to the design, location, operation, and closure of such facilities. The Biological Treatment Standard provides requirements related to the treatment and disposal of biodegradable waste. The requirements apply to the pre-development of a new biological treatment facility that receives and handles biodegradable waste. However, operators of existing facilities must implement the requirements wherever and whenever that is feasible. The Standard on Biological Treatment sets forth the design parameters and operational requirements for biological treatment facilities in Saudi Arabia. The Standard applies to privately operated as well as publicly operated biological treatment facilities. The Standard does not apply, however, to domestic biological processes such as home composting initiatives undertaken by householders at their places of residence.
Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries in the Middle East region, and many developing countries are following in its steps. The fact that it has adopted this abundant number of regulations indicates that it is getting ready to take its environmental issues more seriously. Companies should be on the lookout for a more stringent enforcement system and, more importantly, use the guidance issued to prepare an internal policy that can be the basis for a compliance program to be ready by the time the mandatory requirements take effect.
About the Author
Sanaa Chakibi is a lead regulatory consultant in the Washington, D.C., U.S.A. office of Enhesa, Inc., where she specializes in the Middle East and North Africa regions. Ms. Chakibi monitors environmental, health, and safety regulatory developments throughout the Middle East and North Africa. She has written audit protocols for several countries in this area. She holds a Master’s degree from the George Washington Law School, a Bachelor in Private Law (Licence en Droit Prive) from the Hassan II University in Casablanca, Morocco, and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association.
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Photograph: Jeddah Old Downtown by Asif Akbar, Hungary.