Environment
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Confab Highlights Importance of Wetlands for Sustainable Future

Studies have shown that 28 wetlands in Iran are under serious threat and have become sources of dust storms
Wetlands in Iran are drying up chiefly due to extensive extraction of water for irrigation and non-agricultural uses, as well as climate change.Wetlands in Iran are drying up chiefly due to extensive extraction of water for irrigation and non-agricultural uses, as well as climate change.
Iran has 24 sites designated as wetlands of international importance on the Ramsar list and six are included in the Montreux Record of wetlands with a changing ecological character

A conference to mark the World Wetlands Day themed “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future” by the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention was held in Ramsar, Mazandaran Province, on Friday.

The event was attended by officials from Iran’s Department of Environment, lawmakers and representatives from Japan, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, Afghanistan and Caspian Sea littoral states, IRNA reported.

The World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on Feb. 2 to commemorate the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971.  

Iran has 24 sites designated as wetlands of international importance on the Ramsar list and six are included in the Montreux Record of wetlands with a changing ecological character.

During the conference, Iranian officials highlighted the dire situation of the country’s wetlands, many of which have dried up and become sources of dust storms, chiefly due to extensive extraction of water for irrigation and non-agricultural uses, as well as climate change.

 Ailing Water Bodies  

Isa Kalantari, the DOE chief, attributed the serious prevailing conditions to wrong and conflicting policies adopted over the years.

“The continuation of the present anti-environmental approaches will result in the complete destruction of the country’s ecology,” he said.

Mohammad Reza Tabesh, the head of the environment faction of the parliament, criticized Iran’s performance with regard to wetlands since the adoption of Ramsar Convention.

“Since 1971, the number of member states rose from 18 to 169 and international wetlands increased from 85 to 2,293. It is a wonder that only six wetlands from Iran were added to the list,” he was quoted as saying by ILNA.

He called for integrated action to preserve the valuable natural resources, as the “sustainable future” of many provinces, such as Fars, West Azarbaijan, Khuzestan, Gilan and Golestan, directly or indirectly depends on wetlands.

According o Majid Zohrabi, the deputy for natural environment and biodiversity at DOE, 250 wetlands have been identified in Iran, of which 105 have undergone in-depth studies.

“It turned out that 28 wetlands in the country have been seriously damaged and turned into sand and dust storm hotspots,” he said.

Most Iranian water bodies are under pressure and DOE is preparing a comprehensive plan for the management of most affected wetlands.

According to Abolfazl Abesht, director for Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project, studies for the preparation of the plan have been conducted on 18 wetlands so far, of which 10 have been completed and approved by the provincial planning and development councils.

“The plan for five more is ready and awaiting the council’s approval, while three more will be completed soon,” he said.

 Consumption Efficiency

Excessive water consumption in wetlands’ catchment area is a major cause of their desiccation. More than 90% of the country’s resources are used in agriculture with 30-40% efficiency.

Based on global standards, up to 40% of renewable water resources should be withdrawn while in Iran more than 90% and at times over 100% of the resources are extracted from water basins.

Abesht noted that a method for reducing consumption in farming practices is underway, in cooperation with Japan, adding that the technique helps save water by 50%, which is released into Urmia Lake.

Alternative livelihood is another plan to preserve water reserves.

“The plan is aimed at lifting the burden of economy and people’s livelihood from the Nature and imposing it on other sectors,” he said.

The official lamented that all efforts are aimed at managing the supply of water through water transfer projects, cloud seeding or pumping out deep waters, while more attention should be given to consumption management.

“Energy Ministry data show that 32 billion cubic meters of wastewater are produced in the country whereas less than 1% of this amount should be generated,” he said.

Abesht urged the government to involve the public in preservation plans by instructing them to avoid water wastage and water-intensive food products such as rice and meat.

The Wetlands Protection Bill was proposed in May 2015, reviewed and passed by lawmakers on April 24 and approved by the Guardians Council on May 3, 2017.

The Department of Environment has begun implementing the new regulations since last June.

The law aims to protect Iran’s wetlands from any activity that pollutes and causes irreparable damage to wetlands. It assigns tasks to DOE and the Energy Ministry about water rights and enforces rules on agriculture around wetlands. It also levies fines on offenders, the revenue of which will be used to complete the task of reviving and preserving the endangered wetlands.

Iran is also party to the Convention on Biological Diversity and one of the targets in its National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan states: “By 2030, the conservation and wise use of wetlands should be strengthened and the situation of at least 50% of degraded wetlands must improve.”

 

 

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