EU, UNDP attend Sistan Project steering committee meeting

December 18, 2021 - 17:28

TEHRAN – The Department of Environment (DOE) hosted the first meeting of the Sistan Project steering committee on Saturday in Tehran with the participation of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the European Union (EU).

Sarah Rinaldi, head of the Middle East and Central Asia office of the European Commission's international partnerships, and Claudio Providas, the UNDP Representative in Iran, attended the meeting, IRNA reported.

The project “Enhancing integrated natural resource management for the restoration of wetland ecosystems and support to alternative livelihoods development of local communities”, abbreviated as the Sistan Project as a joint project between the Iranian Department of Environment and UNDP, and is funded by the European Union.

Launched in 2020, the project’s main objectives include efforts for integrated management of natural resources and socio-economic development of the Sistan region with emphasis on supporting alternative livelihoods in line with competitive advantages.

Ali Salajeqeh, head of the DOE, said that together, we must draw on the experience and ideas of the international community. Fortunately, the European Union has valuable experiences and we have seen good communication at various levels, and good results have been achieved that can be used as a model in other parts of the world.

Launched in 2020, the project’s main objectives include integrated management of natural resources and socio-economic development of the Sistan region. With the vast indigenous knowledge that exists in the Sistan region, these potentials can be used for managing water, soil, climate, and vegetation resources and lead them in the right direction, and good experiences like the Sistan project, is an honor for the country, so that special attention should be paid to the region, he highlighted.

Hamoun region being located next to countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan requires a regional perspective and we must provide the achievements to neighboring countries thus can reduce the environmental problems of the region.

Since the livelihood of the people depends on Hamoun International Wetland, we must pay special attention to it and create a culture and a bed of sustainable and alternative livelihood, he further concluded.

Sustainable water and land management

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.

In the last two decades, once fertile wetlands have drastically dried up. The Taliban government closed the sluices to the Kajaki Dam on the Helmand until 2002, which aggravated the impact of the worst drought the region has experienced in many decades, brought about partially by climate change and warming temperatures.

Disputes over transboundary water between Iran and Afghanistan date back to the 1870s when Afghanistan was under British control.

In order to ensure the implementation of an integrated management plan for wetlands, the project supports the establishment of a Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan that provides a detailed list of specific and prioritized actions in agreement with beneficiaries and stakeholders. Next, the project team will work on the implementation of the action plan for watershed management, water efficiency improvement, wetland management, and restoration and biodiversity protection with a special focus on the issue of adaptation to climate change.

The project encourages local communities to manage and restore the wetland, especially through the implementation of sustainable agricultural solutions in pilot farms. In this project, women will be encouraged to implement sustainable livelihoods. Moreover, a number of tools will be identified and implemented to control the effects of sandstorms and reduce drought indicators.

Local economic development 

In this part of the project, activities will be carried out in order to provide technical, financial, and capacity support for local economic development planning, empowerment to reduce poverty and improve entrepreneurship in Sistan Basin, strengthen the participation of women and youth in the planning process and implement local economic development strategies.

These measures will be carried out through technical cooperation and with the participation of related stakeholders, using appropriate indicators and required assessments. In addition, activities are undertaken to create an enabling environment for the private sector, entrepreneurs, and cooperatives to implement and increase benefits, improve product quality and gain access to new markets.

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