DOE: Past Successes, New Priorities

Despite major achievements, the former DOE administration failed to alleviate water crisis, described as the country's most severe environmental issue
The new DOE administration intends to shift the focus of environmental activities toward water management. The new DOE administration intends to shift the focus of environmental activities toward water management.
The goals of the Sixth Five-year Economic Development Plan must be pursued on the basis of sustainable development principles

The Department of Environment's performance during the first tenure of President Hassan Rouhani (2013-17) and the department's management by Massoumeh Ebtekar includes both achievements and failures.

One could say that its biggest achievement concerned air pollution, especially in the sprawling capital.

Banning the distribution of gasoline produced by petrochemical plants and replacing it with Euro 4 fuels, in addition to enforcing Euro 4 standards in the country's car industry (after an eight-year delay), have helped improve air quality to a notable degree.

The production of carbureted motorcycles was banned and Euro 3 standards were enforced for two-wheelers in this period.

DOE also prepared the Clean Air Bill that became law in mid-July after it was approved by the parliament.

The bill singles out inefficient vehicles, substandard fuels, industrial activities and dust storms as the major sources of air pollution. It proposes more frequent technical inspections of public and private vehicles.

Mazut, a low quality fuel oil, was replaced with natural gas in a majority of power plants.

This team also played a major role in climate talks in Paris in late 2015 and managed to convince the parliament to ratify the agreement, making Iran the 106th country to join the deal.

Forming workgroups and devising guidebooks and statutes to combat water and soil pollution, as well as dust storms, were among other measures of DOE, ISNA reported.

  New Priority: Water

The new head of DOE, however, has blamed the former DOE administration of ignoring the country's most critical issue: the water crisis.  

Isa Kalantari, appointed to lead DOE on 13 Aug., has repeatedly stressed that water shortage is the most serious environmental threat facing the country.

"If the current trend of water consumption continues, 80% of the country will have no water at all within 20 years and there will be no trace of farming in the entire country," he declared.

Based on global standards, countries must not withdraw more than 40% of their non-renewable water resources while Iran is using more than 60% of the reserves.

He criticized the former DOE administration for over-stressing matters such as pollution and waste management and ignoring water crisis that is a lot more severe.

"The problem of air pollution has a clear solution and can be resolved within a day while water shortage is far more difficult to deal with," Kalantari was quoted as saying by ILNA.

Kalantari intends to shift the focus of environmental activities toward water management.

The official has also voiced dismay over the goals of the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan (2017-22) that appear to have ignored water challenges.

"The fulfillment of the plan's targets on agricultural production would require the consumption of an extra 35 billion cubic meters of water. This is while the current withdrawal exceeds the standards by 50 bcm," he said.

The DOE chief stressed that the goals must be pursued on the basis of sustainable development principles.

"Much of the groundwater resources have been lost and land subsidence has made their restoration impossible," he said.

Cooperation with the Energy Ministry to stabilize groundwater reserves and ban the establishment of any new steel company are among Kalantari's plans to help curb the water crisis from worsening.

Kalantari also intends to make changes in the administrative structure of DOE by replacing one of the departments with a social-cultural department.

"I mean to establish a social-cultural department to raise public awareness so that the country will have 80 million park rangers instead of the present 3,000," he said.

The DOE has five departments, including the human, natural and marine environment as well as the legal and parliamentary affairs, and education.


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