Iran to expand successful 10-year-old UNDP Zagros project with own funds

Feb 15, 2016

  The Zagros Mountain is a vast catchment area, accounting for 50% of Iran’s surface water

The Zagros Mountain range – stretching from Turkey and Russia to the Persian Gulf – passes through a large section of western Iran.  It is a vast catchment area, accounting for 50% of Iran’s surface water.  It is, quite simply, Iran’s water tower.  But decades of construction and often-unplanned development have placed its fragile ecosystems in danger. 

One effort to repair the damage started over a decade ago.  The “Central Zagros Biodiversity Landscape Conservation” project began operations in 2005, originally in Fars province.  It was later extended to Isfahan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, and finally, Kohkiloye and BoyerAhmad provinces.

During its lifetime, the project – implemented by the Department of Environment and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – piloted a number of successful conservation efforts.  It then documented the best practices and expanded upon them. 

Recognizing the need to sustain and expand this extensive mainstreaming effort, the Government of Iran is now taking steps to retain the project’s legacy as it comes to an end in 2016.  

  Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice-President and Head of Iran's Department of Environment (right) and Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative (left)

Today, at the Department of Environment, five official stakeholders signed a Memorandum of Understanding to keep the initiative alive.  These were the Governor-Generals of the 4 Zagros provinces named above and the Ministry of the Interior and the Management and Planning Organization.

The event took place in the presence of the Vice-President and Head of the DoE, Dr. Massoumeh Ebtekar and UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Gary Lewis.

During its lifetime, the Zagros project was funded to the tune of approximately US$3.9 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) implemented through the UNDP Iran office, and an amount from the Government exchequer equivalent to US$ 5.8 million. 

The project is reported to have played an influential role in the scoping of the 6th National Development Plan which has been submitted to parliament for consideration.  The intention is to use its findings to ensure the future sustainable development of the Central Zagros mountain landscape.

  The MOU was co-signed by Governor Generals of 4 Zagros provinces of Isfahan (Mr. Zargar), Chaharmahal & Bakhtiari (Mr. Soleymani Dashtaki), Fars (Mr. Ali Afshani) and Kohkiloye & BoyerAhmad (Mr. Khademi), as well as Deputy Minister of Interior in urban and Rural Development (Mr. Khandandel), Deputy Management and Planning Organization of Iran in along with the NPD of the project and Deputy in DoE Dr. Dabiri

Speaking at the signing ceremony, and referring to events in the past half-decade, Dr. Ebtekar noted that: “Due to unfair sanctions imposed on Iran, we have been deprived of expanding our GEF projects – which, like this one, can turn to best practices and be used and expanded to other parts of the country.”

“We hope,” continued Dr. Ebtekar, “that in the future we can use such international projects in order to maximize the capacities we have here in Iran.”

Mr. Lewis also spoke at the event: “Although UNDP is withdrawing from this modest and supportive initiative in Zagros, we remain committed to staying and continuing to help Iran in other important areas relating to environmental sustainability and protection.”

Environmental sustainability is one of UNDP’s key focus areas in its current country programme agreed with the government of Iran.  In the future programme due to start in 2017, this focus area has been elevated to top priority.

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