Muscat: One of Oman’s best-known tourist attractions, Jebel Akhdar (also known as Green Mountain), has been designated a nature reserve in a bid to conserve its unique yet fragile biodiversity. A decree issued on Wednesday by Sultan Qaboos, ruler of Oman, establishes the ‘Jebel Akhdar Sanctuary for Natural Sceneries’.

The measure effectively confers protected status on a mountainous swathe popular for its dramatic massifs, plunging ravines and temperate summertime climate.

Located in the Interior Region, about a two-hour drive from the capital Muscat, Jebel Akhdar has been a major draw for nature lovers and tourists attracted by its splendid natural settings. On its summit are picturesque terraced orchards where the local mountain folk cultivate pomegranate, grape, pear, apricot, peach, walnut and a variety of other fruits.

Also prized in these parts is rose water distilled from the petals of a pink rose unique to these mountains. But economic and tourism development has imperilled the region’s unique flora, prompting conservationists and scientists to call for measures to protect the mountain’s natural heritage.

The decree empowers the Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs to draft guidelines regulating access and developmental activity within the reserve. Another decree issued on the same day amends the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, which is located in the desert heartland of the sultanate, to the ‘Natural Living Sanctuary in the Al Wusta Region’. The reserve was created in the 1980s to help bring the endangered Arabian Oryx back from near extinction – a successful endeavour that has won much acclaim for Oman’s environmental conservation efforts.