First Starlight Reserve to come up in Dakhliyah

May 14, 2019

Oman has announced through a Royal Decree that it will establish region’s first Starlight Reserve in Dakhliyah governorate. The reserve will be a boon for astronomy lovers as well as people who want to bask under a starlit sky far from any light pollution.

Specialists in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) expressed their happiness on the issuance of two Royal Decrees for the establishment of a Starlight Reserve in Al Hajar al Gharbi in Dakhliyah and Rustaq Wildlife Nature Reserve in South Batinah governorate.

H E Mohammed bin Salim bin Said al Toobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs, said that the Decree is based on His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s keenness to preserve the natural environment of the sultanate and protect its wildlife.

“The Starlight Reserve in Dakhliyah will be the first-of-its-kind in the Gulf countries.”

H E Najeeb bin Ali al Rawas, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), said, “The establishment of these reserves reinforces the role of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs and other competent government agencies for the protection of environment. In the past, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs has trained its cadres working in nature reserves or environmental inspectors in the field of environmental protection and conservation of natural resources.”

Sulaiman bin Nasser al Akhzami, director general of Nature Conservation, said, “The ministry in cooperation with a number of agencies, has studied two sites specified by the two Royal Decrees. The ministry has also submitted two studies on the sites. The study included determining the geological characteristics and the flora and fauna. The ministry will also carry out field inspections and follow up the application of environmental laws and requirements within the sites.”

Ali bin Nasser al Rasabi, assistant director, Department of Nature Reserves in the ministry, said Starlight Reserve in Al Hajar Al Gharbi is located at an altitude of 1300m-3000m above sea level. “The plan is to develop laws and guidelines for the external lighting of the reserve and its buffer zone. The reserve will include ibex, red foxes as well as Al Alalan trees.”

Ali al Shaibani, a member of the Oman Astronomical Society, said, “The Starlight Reserve will help astronomers see a clear sky and facilitate astronomical and scientific research. It will also attract tourists interested in stargazing and night sky photography.”

Majid bin Said al Khanbashi, specialist, Nature Reserve in the ministry, said, “The Al Rustaq Wildlife Nature Reserve in South Batinah is located 2000m above sea level. The ministry registered more than 110 species of wild plants and trees in the reserve, as well as plant species that are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (IUCN). The ministry also registered six species of mammals, three of which are small mammals such as mountain fox, hedgehogs, bats and large mammals such as ibex, lynx, and white-tailed fowl. Ibex is considered one of the most important wild mammals in the reserve. It will also have 16 species of wild birds such as eagles among others.”