UN ready to support Iran’s dealing with SDSs

October 9, 2021 - 18:22

TEHRAN – The United Nations (UN) is ready to support cooperation at regional and trans-regional levels with Iran to deal with the negative effects of sand and dust storms, Letizia Rossano, head of the Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM), has stated.

APDIM recently published a report entitled "Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment in Asia and the Pacific" which found significant findings on the impact of dust storms on agriculture, energy, environment, aviation, human health, glacier melting, and cities.

The report reveals that sand and dust storms pose risks to both society and the environment and directly threaten the achievement of 11 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Mobilizing coordinated regional action is paramount to reduce risk and strengthen resilience to the negative transboundary impact of sand and dust storms.

We are ready to facilitate cooperation to reduce the negative effects of dust storms through action at the regional and trans-regional levels, Rossano stated.

In Iran, internal dust sources are estimated at 34.6 million hectares, with an average amount of 4.22 million tons of dust per year.“As a meteorological phenomenon, sand and dust storms derive mainly from arid and semi-arid areas and are spread across large parts of the study region. Major events can transport dust over great distances so that their impacts occur not only in the areas where they originate but also in communities far from the source areas, frequently across international boundaries.

Findings show that more than 6 million people in different cities of China, Iran, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan have been breathing unhealthy levels of air pollution caused by dust storms for at least 10 months in 2019.

In Central Asia, 80 percent of the total population is exposed to high levels of poor air quality caused by severe dust storms. In addition, large areas of agricultural land are affected by dust particles. In Turkmenistan, 71 percent, Pakistan 49 percent, and Uzbekistan 44 percent of agricultural lands are affected by dust particles.

Large amounts of SDSs, with high salt content, are toxic to plants and also reduce soil and water quality. Some crops are more sensitive to this phenomenon. For example, dust can dramatically reduce cotton production considerably.

SDSs also have a significant impact on the energy sector. The assessment shows that in only a small part of the energy sector (economic losses due to reduced efficiency of solar generators), dust storms incurred losses of more than $107 million in India, $46 million in China, and $37 million in Pakistan.

In the aviation sector, the report identifies the airports and routes with the highest risk of flight delays and cancellations, as well as possible damage to aircraft engines due to sand and dust storms.

In recent years, action has been taken in many countries, including Iran and its neighbors, independently or within the framework of United Nations cooperation. Each of these efforts offers specific approaches to counteracting this phenomenon, including land and water resources management, combating land degradation and desertification, as well as establishing monitoring and early warning systems.

The UN General Assembly, in its resolution 72/225, in order to coordinate these activities and further promote this issue, required the UN system to increase the synergy and alignment of efforts at the regional and global levels, through taking integrated measures, facilitating capacity building in member countries, increasing countries' awareness, and improve their preparedness and response to dust storms in critical areas,” Rossano explained.

Scientific solutions to deal with dust storms 

The report identifies areas that are expected to see an increase or decrease in dust storms over the next decade, based on forecasts of drought and water stress, as well as the current situation.

Based on the report, some coping strategies can focus on prevention, for example, reversing deforestation and land degradation to reduce dust emissions, reduce the negative effects of dust by reducing exposure, sensitivity and improving resilience in different sectors.

Depending on the case and the resources available, a combination of these approaches can be adopted. It should also be borne in mind that dust storms are a natural phenomenon that has both positive and negative effects. We cannot and should not think about eliminating this phenomenon completely. Our focus should be on minimizing the negative effects and being vigilant when climate change and human-centered factors take this phenomenon far beyond its natural course.

In Iran, internal dust sources are estimated at 34.6 million hectares, with an average amount of 4.22 million tons of dust per year, of which 122.7 kilograms of dust per hectare is raised annually.

To control it, measures such as planting 110,000 hectares of seedlings, conservation management of about 50,000 hectares of agricultural land, 300 km dredging, and 3,000 hectares of windbreaks, have been taken through a 10-year plan, which has controlled the SDS sources to some extent.

We need to deepen our understanding of the effects of this phenomenon. We find that there is still a large gap that can be filled by scientists, universities, and research institutes. Unlike other disasters, there was no coherent reporting mechanism to record damage and casualties from dust storms in countries. In this regard, APDIM has provided guidance to help countries record and report such data in a coherent manner, Rossano stated.

Another suggestion is to create and develop a system for predicting the effects of dust in various sectors, especially the health sector so that we can not only predict this phenomenon from a meteorological point of view but also be able to predict what damage this phenomenon will cause in order to take targeted measures to reduce exposure and its risks. We also urge countries to take concerted action in high-risk areas with the highest levels of exposure to reduce the risk.

Iran forerunner in fighting SDSs

Iran is a leading country in the knowledge and analysis of dust storms and has conducted some of the most important research in this field. Therefore, it is recommended to rely on this ability and make more assessments of the economic and social impact in different sectors.

The country has a history of leadership in the international community in dealing with dust storms as a cross-border disaster.

Addressing issues such as climate change and natural disasters, such as dust storms that occur in different regions and their influence extends beyond political boundaries, requires bilateral or multilateral negotiations between governments and through developed political frameworks or international organizations such as the United Nations.

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