People, Environment

UNEP Approves Global Fund to Fight Dust Storms

UNEP Approves Global Fund to Fight Dust StormsUNEP Approves Global Fund to Fight Dust Storms

The United Nations Environment Programme has announced its preliminary agreement with Iran’s proposal to launch an international fund to fight dust storms, the head of the Department of Environment was quoted as saying by IRNA.

“The issue of dust storms is a regional problem and fighting it requires international cooperation” said Massoumeh Ebtekar last week, on the sidelines of the Conference on the Impacts of War on the Environment.

She said due to safety issues and political instability in the neighboring countries, addressing dust storms and implementing solutions is “impossible.”

“They cannot plant vegetation and take measures to stabilize soil, which exacerbates the problem,” Ebtekar added.

Iran’s previous attempts at launching a regional fund to fight the phenomenon proved unsuccessful because “regional countries were unwilling or unable to cooperate.”

Drawn up as a resolution, Iran’s UNEP-approved proposal will be put up for review at a future meeting of the world’s environment ministers.

  Cooperation Essential

Ebtekar, who doubles as a vice president, said the main foreign source of dust storms that directly affects Iran is Saudi Arabia’s Rub’ al Khali desert.

“However, numerous sources have been identified within our borders,” she noted.

The official said funds have been allocated to tackle dust storms in the southern oil-rich Khuzestan Province, which has borne the brunt of the storms in the past few years, culminating in February’s intense episode in which the provincial capital Ahvaz shut down and hospitals were filled with people of all ages suffering from breathing difficulties.

“Sources in Sistan-Baluchestan, Kerman, Qom and Ilam have also been identified and studies are being carried out,” Ebtekar said.

She noted that fighting dust storms is subject to close cooperation between the DOE, Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization, Iran’s Meteorological Organization and National Disaster Management Organization.

DOE officials have publicly stated that the government lacks the financial resources to battle the crippling dust storms that have dogged more than two-thirds of Iran.

“To effectively deal with the phenomenon of dust storms, about $1.45 billion are needed. But the government does not have the financial means to fund such programs,” ILNA quoted Ziaeddin Shoaei, head of the DOE’s task force to combat the phenomenon, as saying last month.

He said a comprehensive plan to curb dust storms in the 23 afflicted provinces has been prepared, but the plan will first be implemented in provinces severely hit by the storms, such as Khuzestan, again due to lack of funds.