Iran's Environmental Problems Discussed With ESCAP

ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar pointed to the western-imposed sanctions as an impediment to Iran’s recovery from ecological issues, stressing that a solution should be found to this problem
Shamshad Akhtar (L) met with Isa Kalantari on the sidelines of the ESCAP meeting in Tehran on Jan. 30.
Shamshad Akhtar (L) met with Isa Kalantari on the sidelines of the ESCAP meeting in Tehran on Jan. 30.

Iranian authorities have called attention to the issue of water shortage and the resulting problems of sand and dust storms as the country's most serious environmental challenges.

The problems were highlighted in a two-day meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific held in Tehran on Jan. 30-31.

In a meeting with Shamshad Akhtar, the undersecretary-general of the United Nations and executive secretary of ESCAP, Isa Kalantari, the head of Iran's Department of Environment, noted that tackling the water problem is the top priority of Iran's environmental authorities, ILNA reported.

Dust storms are the offshoots of water shortage and drought that have prevailed in Iran, especially in the southern regions, for a long time.

"Reforming water management strategies is the most effective solution to tackle the phenomenon," Kalantari said, adding that efforts have been made to reduce water consumption.

The High-Level Regional Conference on Information Management for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience focused on regional cooperation for combating sand and dust storms in Asia and the Pacific.

Sand and dust storms, land degradation, desertification and wind erosion present a formidable challenge to sustainable development. Approximately 2 trillion tons of dusts are emitted into the atmosphere each year, with the Asia-Pacific region contributing 27% to global emissions.

Disaster risks are also outpacing disaster resilience and the gap is growing in countries with the lowest capacity to prepare for or respond to disasters.

Recognizing these challenges, ESCAP and the Iranian government signed an agreement on Tuesday to establish the Asian and the Pacific Center for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM) in Tehran.

The center will strengthen regional cooperation in disaster risk reduction and promote effective policies for inclusive, sustainable and resilient development in the region.

Pointing to the cross-border dust storm hotspots affecting Iran, including those in Iraq and Syria, and unrestrained dam construction in upstream countries that has exacerbated dust pollution in Iran, Kalantari said the UN and its affiliated agencies play a key role in fostering regional cooperation in this regard.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Baqer Nobakht also hoped that the regional center will provide an opportunity for better diplomacy to control the common sources of sand and dust.

"Through APDIM, we will be able to take measures to mitigate sources that are across the borders," he said.  

   A Common Problem

The UN undersecretary-general noted that sand and dust storms are common issues afflicting the Asia-Pacific region.

"For instance, China and Mongolia are both affected by the phenomenon originating form a common source, the controlling of which requires sharing knowledge, close cooperation and adoption of interventionist policies," she said.  

"Establishing a mechanism of sharing information on sand and dust storms can be included within the framework of Asia-Pacific cooperation."

The ESCAP chief referred to water management as a solution to dust particle emission, stressing that one of the best methods to optimize water consumption is recycling, especially in agriculture, and Iran should take steps to use the technique.

Akhtar pointed to western-imposed sanctions as an impediment to Iran's recovery from ecological issues, stressing that a solution should be found to this problem.

"Although the capacities of ESCAP are fully available for technical studies in this regard, it is essential to seek financial support from other organizations such as the World Bank to facilitate the process," she said.

ESCAP has conducted an analytical study that proposes a four-track strategy to initiate a regional cooperation mechanism for mitigating and adapting to sand and dust storms.

The strategy calls for tackling effective factors through a multiple-hazard approach; developing a sand and dust storms alert system; establishing an Asia-Pacific sand and dust storm network, and leveraging APDIM for increased technical support.

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