DOE chief demands UN to cooperate on negotiating Hamoun water right

October 31, 2018

TEHRAN — Over a meeting held in Tehran on Wednesday with the UN resident coordinator and UNDP representative Ugochi Daniels, Issa Kalantari, chief of Iran’s Department of Environment (DOE), emphasized the need for negotiating with Afghanistan to discuss Hamoun Lake water right.

Hamoun Lake is a transboundary body of water shared between Iran and Afghanistan which is has dried up in Iran and its barren, exposed lakebed is causing great discomfort for the residents of the southeastern part of the country.  

Kalantari explained that while sand and dust storms severely threatens the lives of 500,000 residents and affects many sectors of agriculture, livestock and industry in Sistan region, southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, Afghanistan has denied a fairly formal agreement on granting the water right of Hamoun wetland due to U.S. intervention and pressure.
The Hamouns are transboundary wetlands on the Iran-Afghan border made up of three lakes: Hamoun-e Helmand, which is entirely in Iran, Hamoun-e Sabari on the border, and Hamoun-e Puzak, almost entirely inside Afghanistan. The three lakes are linked and fed by water from the Helmand River which starts in the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan.

When droughts occur in Afghanistan, or the water in watersheds that support lake is drawn down by other natural or human-induced reasons, the end result is a dry lakebed in Iran. In addition, when the lake is dry, seasonal winds blow fine sands off the exposed lakebed and give rise to crippling sand and dust storm in eastern and southeastern parts of Iran.

DOE chief mentioned water shortage as the most significant problem in the country, regretting that water scarcity is threatening the biodiversity in Iran.According to the previous agreement signed between Iran and Afghanistan many years ago, Afghanistan is obligated to provide Hamoun wetland in Iran with 820 million cubic meters’ water per annum, while Hamoun capacity is between 10 to 15 billion cubic meters, and Afghanistan will provide the amount as long as the rainfall meet normal levels.

Kalantari also regretted that while Iran is hosting over 2.5 million Afghan refugees and is offering them various [health and educational] services the neighboring country is refusing to act on the issue.

“Iran’s Foreign Ministry has been following up on the issue for three years and the united Nations should also take effective actions,” he noted. 

Elsewhere in his remarks Kalantari mentioned water shortage as the most significant problem in the country, regretting that water scarcity is threatening the biodiversity in Iran.
Pointing to the sand and dust storms haunting the southern part of the country, he noted that the problem is partially related to the poor management of the country's natural resources and climate change.

Daniels, for her part, expressed interest for being in Iran and said that the UN's priority in helping countries is poverty eradication, public welfare, healthy environment and sustainable development.

Elsewhere in her remarks, she noted that the sanctions are not only problematic for Iran, but also a challenge for the United Nations; Iran, despite facing environmental challenges, has the capacity to transfer experiences to other countries.

Daniels proclaimed unilateralism as one of the major challenges facing the world and highlighted that the possible way to eradicate the problem is developing partnerships and multilateralism.

At the end, the two sides emphasized the need for more cooperation and coordination in the environmental fields and other related areas.

 Sistan suffering great discomfort 

Sistan region, is frequently hit by sand and dust storms along with polluted air quality, as well as permanent drought and even destructive floods due to climate change, low precipitation rate and dried Hamoun wetland.

As Mahmoud Diyanati, an official with the province’s meteorological organization in mid-August said that strong sand and dust storms with as fast as 100 kilometers per hour speed have stricken the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan for 19 times since the beginning of the current [Iranian calendar] year (March 21).

Earlier in July, Ali Mohammad Tahmasbi, director for national headquarters for combatting sand and dust storms said that to mitigate the effects of sand and dust storms, the only useful measure is to negotiate on the water right of the wetland and maintain the humidity of the surface soil, so that the wind cannot lift the particles.

FB/MQ/MG

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