Plan to Revive Hamouns Prepared

Plan to Revive Hamouns PreparedPlan to Revive Hamouns Prepared

The final draft of the comprehensive wetland management plan aimed at reviving the imperiled Hamoun Wetlands in Sistan-Balouchestan Province has been prepared and, following its approval, will go into effect in the near future.

The final session of the working group tasked with devising the plan was adjourned on Sunday, Mehr News Agency reported.

The working group comprises representatives of provincial and national executive bodies with expert knowledge of wetland management and those entrusted with enforcing the regulations set by the plan.

“The comprehensive plan could not have been devised without the support of relevant organizations and people who live in the vicinity of the Hamouns,” said Mohsen Soleimani Rouzbehani, director of Iranian Wetlands Conservation Project.

Rouzbehani said the plan outlines measures to protect and replenish the wetland, and contains regulations aimed at sustainable development of the surrounding area.

“If properly executed, the plan will overhaul the current state of Hamouns and wetland management in general,” he said.

The plan is expected to be reviewed and approved by provincial decision-makers next month and communicated to relevant organizations and government bodies shortly thereafter.

  Previous Measures

The Hamouns are transboundary wetlands on the Iran-Afghan border and comprise three lakes: Hamoun-e Helmand, which is entirely in Iran; Hamoun-e Sabari on the border; and Hamoun-e Puzak, which is almost entirely inside Afghanistan.

The three lakes are linked and fed by water from Afghanistan’s Helmand River.

Construction of dams and canals in Afghanistan led to water being drawn off to feed agriculture in the Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Nimrooz, causing water levels in the lakes to plummet. To make matters worse, four reservoirs were built within Iran, diverting more water and speeding up the desiccation of the wetlands.

In March, heavy rainfall in Afghanistan filled the Farah River, which feeds Hamoun-e Sabari. That helped a small community in Iran, whose livelihood depends on the Hamouns, thrive.

Nearly one kilometer of the central levee on Hamoun-e Puzak was brought down in May to help restore the wetlands.

During a recent trip to Iran, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Iran’s environmental chief, Massoumeh Ebtekar, discussed the endangered Hamouns and vowed to increase efforts to revive the wetlands.

In an Op-Ed written in 2013 after visiting the Hamouns, United Nations Development Program Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Iran Gary Lewis said wetland is really not the right word, for these are parched lands.

“Twenty years ago, most of this area was green. Flora and fauna were abundant. The lake teemed with fish. The total annual catch used to exceed 12,000 tons. Fishermen would regularly haul in fish weighing 20 kilograms. The wetlands also supported agriculture and water buffalo herds, providing a livelihood for thousands of families,” he said.

President Hassan Rouhani has said tackling environmental challenges is his government’s priority and it is hoped that the implementation of the comprehensive wetland management plan will help revive one of the country’s most ecologically-rich lagoons.