Iran tells UN: 8 million hectares of land in Iraq are hotspots of dust storms

March 12, 2017

TEHRAN — In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres dated a few days ago Iran informed the international body that 8 million hectares of land in Iraq are hotspots of dust storms which hit Iran once in a while.

“Estimates indicate that approximately 2.5 million hectares of hotspots are located within Iran while Iraq alone has an estimated hotspots of about 8 million hectares topped with similar order of magnitude from other states in and around the Persian Gulf region,” the letter, co-written by Iran’s Department of Environment Chief Masoumeh Ebtekar and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, stated.

The two Iranian officials asked the international body to help Iran to control heavy dust storms.

Dust storms and unhealthful levels of air pollution in southern Khuzestan province is causing serious disturbance to the local residents and has lately sparked protests in the region.

The dust storms are believed to originate from hotspots- mostly totally dried up wetlands- located in Iraq and Iran. Years of mismanagement, shortsightedness, inefficient and unsustainable exploitation of the resources, and war have contributed to the wetlands dryness.

Below is a part of the letter written to the UN chief:

As you may be aware, dust and sand storms are on the rise at the global level and particularly in the West Asia region.  On the initiative of the Islamic Republic of Iran and due to the urgency of the matter, two UN General Assembly resolutions (A/RES/70/195 dated 22 December 2015 and A/RES/71/219 dated 21 December 2016) have been issued resulting in the publication of a "Global Assessment Report on Dust and Sand Storms”. UN Environment Assembly and ESCAP have also issued resolutions (respectively UNEP/EA.2/Res.21 dated 27 May 2016 and E/ESCAP/RES/72/7 dated 24 May 2016) pointing to the importance of addressing the social economic and environmental impacts of dust and sand storms as well as the urgency to formulate regional action plans to combat desertification in order to mitigate expansion of hotspots resulting in improved air quality for hundreds of millions of inhabitants. The incidence and intensity of these storms have been on the rise in Iran and while approximately 30 % have local hotspots, more than 70% have originated in other neighboring countries of the West Asia.

Iran does have a National Plan to tackle this multi-sectoral yet complex environmental challenge, which has immense dimensions. Estimates indicate that approximately 2.5 million hectares of hotspots are located within Iran while Iraq alone has an estimated hotspots of  about 8 million hectares topped with similar order of magnitude from other states in and around the Persian Gulf region.

Due to the vast health, environmental, economic and social impacts and urgency to respond, we propose that you urgently establish a dedicated "Task Force" comprised of regional states and designate competent officers to address the matter.

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