Saudi Arabia

International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. For example, Article 14 reads: “All God-given resources of the country, both under and above ground, or in territorial waters, or within terrestrial and maritime limits to which the State jurisdiction extends, as well as the revenues accruing therefrom shall be owned by the State as specified by the law. Likewise the law shall specify the means to be employed for the utilization, protection and development of these resources in a manner conducive to the promotion of the State's interest, security and economy”.

Article 32, on the other hand, reads: “The State shall seek to conserve, protect and develop the environment and prevent pollution”.

The first comprehensive Saudi Arabian national environmental legislation was enacted on 24 September 2001 in the form of the General Environmental Regulation, Council of Ministers Resolution No 193. It entered into force on 31 October 2002, and its Implementing Rules were published on 30 September 2003.

Featured Legislation

1987: Royal Decree No. M/9 was promulgated. This Regulation is divided into 13 articles. Fishing, diving, marine life protection, exploitation and development, fishing gear development, definition of marine fishing zones, marinculture, protected species and research are of the competence of the Ministry of Agriculture and Waters (art. 1). The practice of fishing and diving in the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia are allowed only with a license issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Waters (art. 2). Uprooting and cutting trees and plants from the coast and islands, as well as the transportation of soil, birds and turtle eggs without authorization are prohibited (art. 6). Violation, fines and penalties (arts. 8-10). The Minister of Agriculture and Waters will issue the Implementing Regulation (art. 12).

1988: Resolution No.21911 (Implementing Regulations of the Act on Fishing, exploitation, and protection of marine life in the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia) was established. The Implementing Regulations is composed of 10 Sections divided into 125 articles: definition and terms (sect. I); general provision (sect. II); use and exploitation of living aquatic resources including [fishing licenses; labor; artificial and traditional fishing means; conservation, transport, marketing and production of aquatic resources; manufacture and maintenance of fishing gear and means; agricultural bank and credits](sect. III); living aquatic resources protection (sect. IV)]; forbidden and prohibited which are: [fishing gear and means; zones and periods] (sect. V); diving (sect. VI; aquaculture (sect. VII); cooperatives (sect. VIII); competence and suitability of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water (sect. IX); offenses and penalties (sect. X).

2002: The Regulations and Procedures for hazardous waste control (Document No. 01-2002) were brought into force. This Regulation aims at the protection of the public health and the environment in Saudi Arabia by laying down suitable measures and rules for the control of the production, transportation, storage and treatment of hazardous wastes. The present Regulation is composed of 10 articles and 3 Annexes. Article 1 deals with objectives of the Regulation. Article 2 concerns with terms and definitions. Article 3 defines the scope of the Regulation. Article 4 relates to the concept of hazardous waste. Articles 5 pertains to the producers of hazardous waste. Article 6 defines the rules and requirements for hazardous waste transporters. Article 7 specifies the rules and requirements for hazardous waste management facilities. Article 8 addresses obligations and duties of the owner or manager of establishments producing hazardous waste. Article 9 provides for exceptions and exemptions. Article 10 refers to the secrecy of the information provided by the applicant. Annex I lists the hazardous wastes. Annex II deals with treatment methods.Annex III classifies hazardous waste substances.

2003: The Livestock Act was instituted. This Act consisting of 21 articles aims at: (i) protecting the animal resources of the Saudi Kingdom from epidemiological and infectious diseases and the harmful effects of the environmental pollution; (ii) ensure to them care, food and appropriate breeding and are not badly treated; (iii) create the necessary plans and measures to avoid animal diseases and communicable diseases between them and humans; (iv) guarantee security of the local animal products. Responsible body is the Ministry of Agriculture and it must be assisted by all the governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned with animal resources and their products or remnants. The Ministry is also responsible for issuing the necessary permits for: the livestock projects; veterinary clinics and laboratories. The Act deals also with the duties of the owner; approval for analysis to be conducted abroad; procedures in case of suspected/overt diseases; registration and control on veterinary vaccines and feed additives.

2005: The National Strategy for Conservation of Biodiversity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was introduced.  The National Biodiversity Strategy for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sectoral document aiming at introducing the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into the national planning process; providing the basic information and a significant contribution to the Convention on Biological Diversity ratified by Saudi Arabia. Because the Strategy covers many issues, its effective implementation requires a high level of political support as well as coordination between government, non-governmental organization, and the private sectors. The Strategy consists of V Parts, as follows: Purpose and scope (I); Islamic Vision (II); Status of terrestrial, marine and freshwater biodiversity (III); 17 Strategic Goals (IV); Mechanism of implementation and subsequent monitoring. The main purpose of the conservation and sustainable use of Biodiversity will be achieved through the following specific strategic goals: in-situ conservation both inside and outside protected areas; ex-situ conservation; conserving and developing forests and woodlands, desert rangelands, living marine resources and agricultural biodiversity; botanic and zoological gardens regulating access to genetic resources in addition to national parks and introducing national biosafety standards; enacting environmental legislation, supporting scientific research, enhancing environmental education, and achieving socio-economic development; encouraging collaborative management and promoting cooperation for biodiversity; generating income from wildlife resources and developing ecotourism and nature-based tourism.

2006: The Strategy and National Forestry Plan in Saudi Arabia (2005 – 2025) was approved. This sectoral document represents the legal framework to establish and develop the activities related to the forestry protection in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, especially given the scarcity of resources. It consists of two parts, the Strategy and the National Forestry Plan.

2016: The Water Act was implemented. This Act, consisting of 137 articles divided in XI Sections, aims to regulate and protect the sources of water, ensuring their sustainability and management, regulating their affairs, related rights and use. Water sources are listed as follows: (i) rainwater, snow and discharge of torrents ; (ii) renewable and no-renewable groundwater; (iii) surface water; (iv) treated wastewater ; and (v) desalinated seawater. It establishes that all the water sources are property of the State and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture is responsible for their protection and exploitation with the following competencies: (i) grant licenses for the use and exploitation of water resources; (ii) the possibility of imposing numbers on wells in farms, recreational facilities and houses; (iii) prepare and up to date the National Water Strategy; (iv) develop an emergency and disaster management plan that incorporates the activation of monitoring and early warning techniques; (v) establish a national center for information and research; (vi) monitoring water sources; (vii) impose and monitoring the use of advanced and rational irrigation techniques and systems for the use of water in agricultural activities; (viii) prepare educational programs for farmers; (ix) promote the use of environmentally friendly technologies and materials in all water services and projects. The Authority responsible for regulating the public services shall develop plans to encourage the private sector participation in the water projects and services and in achieving the goals contained in the national policies. It also establishes the water tariffs or fees.

2020: The Water Law was ratified. This Law consisting of 77 articles divided in XVII Chapters aims at (i) ensuring the sustainability of water, preserving, protecting, and developing its resources; (ii) ensure access to clean and safe water suitable for use and in conformity with the standard specifications stipulated by law providing adequate water supplies for the agricultural sector; (iii) enhancing the participation of the private sector in developing water projects, and enhancing effective governance; and (iv) providing water supply to all consumers in a fair, balanced, safe, clean manner at competitive prices, in accordance with the standards and plans set by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture. Chapter IV clarifies that all surface water and renewable and nonrenewable groundwater is public property, and subject to the present Law. With the exception of seawater, no one may use or develop any water source without a license from the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture. A license to exploit water sources may not be transferred with ownership of the relevant land without the ministry’s approval. Water use and allocation shall be according to the priorities established at article 12, respectively (1) basic human needs; (2) watering animals; and (3) agricultural, urban and industrial demand, and the minimum environmental balance. The priorities in this case are determined by a decision of the Ministerial Committee based on the proposal of the Ministry.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General, Shaikh Saud Bin Abdullah Al Mujib, issued a decision in 2021 to set up a department tasked with investigating environmental crimes, enhancing protection of the environment. Accompanying Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives – both of which were launched by Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman – Al Mujib will coordinate efforts to aid in the investigation of  environmental cases to limit criminal practices that have a negative impact on the environment and climate. The cross-sector partnership will also investigate all patterns and behaviors that threaten climate stability and environmental sustainability under a single penal system. Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives will draw upon regional cooperation to tackle the environmental challenges facing Saudi Arabia and the wider region, advancing a number of ambitious projects designed to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 60 per cent. It is Al Mujib’s hope that this will be achieved mainly through the use of clean hydrocarbon technologies and the planting of 50 billion trees, including 10 billion in the Kingdom. Hailed as the world’s largest afforestation project, the initiative will also help to revive millions of hectares of deteriorated land; preserve marine and coastal environments; and increase the proportion of natural reserves and protected land, whilst improving the regulation of oil production and boosting the amount of energy generated by renewables.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture: