Japan makes fifth contribution to UNDP Iran to support restoration efforts in Lake Urmia

May 1, 2018

Lake Urmia – situated in northwest of Iran – is a key wetland of national and global importance and it is a known fact, that it is facing a crisis for more than a decade

Lake Urmia – situated in northwest of Iran – is a key wetland of national and global importance and it is a known fact, that it is facing a crisis for more than a decade. Indeed, the devastating situation in Lake Urmia is now one of the most serious environmental challenges in Iran.

Annually, since 2014, Japan has been providing a grant of US$ 1 million to UNDP supporting their efforts to contribute to the restoration of Lake Urmia.

Yesterday, in the presence of Vice-President and Head of the Department of Environment (DoE), Dr. Isa Kalantari along with the Ambassador of Japan in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Hiroyasu Kobayashi and UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Ms. Anne Marie Sloth Carlsen the signing ceremony for the fifth phase of this initiative took place.

The contributions are implemented as a component of UNDP’s ongoing Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project – a project in which UNDP is partnering with Iran’s DoE.

IR-Japan signing ceremony 1Ambassador of Japan in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Hiroyasu Kobayashi

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Kobayashi said: “Japan has been continuously supporting the restoration of the lake since 2014, and in fact, this is the fifth time Japan has contributed to the endeavors to revive Lake Urmia, a total of about 5 million USD thus far, following the summit meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Rouhani in 2013”.

He added: “Japan strongly hopes that this project further contributes to the restoration of the beautiful lake as well as the welfare and betterment of the lives of the local people”.

The contribution of this project to the restoration is mainly taking place through public participation to ensure water savings stemming from the promotion of sustainable agriculture in the farming communities adjacent to the saltwater lake. Here, local communities and farmers are engaging to apply new less water consuming irrigation techniques as well as techniques that reduce the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers.

This approach has so far resulted in a water-saving of at least 35% which, in turn, will allow the “saved” water to return to the lake, thus replenishing it. At the same time, the use of fertilizers and pesticides has been reduced by 40%.

IR-Japan signing ceremony 2UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Ms. Anne Marie Sloth Carlsen

In this regards, Ms. Carlsen said: “Our focus is on the agriculture sector which accounts for more than 87 per cent of water use.  We must save water – and divert more water into our thirsty Lake Urmia”.

The UNDP Resident Representative a.i. also highlighted some of the key achievements in the first four phases of this project including:

  • Significant improvement of inter-sectoral collaboration in Lake Urmia Basin;
  • Significant improvement of social responsibility among local communities for restoration of Lake Urmia;
  • Modeling local community participation in Lake Urmia restoration and establishment of sustainable agriculture which has resulted in the involvement of 11,000 farmers and employment of 200 local experts;
  • Women engagement and empowerment – around 800 rural women have been trained to take role in Lake Urmia restoration; and
  • Awareness raising and social responsibility improvement which has resulted in more than 4,700 students and 380 teachers being trained on the role of local communities in Lake Urmia restoration.

Originally the project was initiated in 41 villages around the basin of the lake. The second phase covered 75 villages. In the third phase this number increased to 90 villages. In the fourth phase of the project 110 villages were covered. This new contribution will expand the area covered with these techniques to cover an additional 20 villages representing 130 villages in total.  

Ms. Carlsen concluded her remarks by stating: “The challenge is to upscale the successes we have delivered and save the basin and its inhabitants”.

IR-Japan signing ceremony 3Vice-President and Head of the Department of Environment (DoE), Dr. Isa Kalantari

Dr. Kalantari also spoke at the signing ceremony and stated: “The current condition of Lake Urmia is a result of unsustainable water resources management, building of dams and overconsumption of water aquifers. I am grateful to UNDP and Government of Japan for their efforts and support in reviving this important ecosystem”.

“Focusing on social issues and changing the behaviour of the local communities is one of the strengths of this project. The restoration of Lake Urmia is one of our government’s top priorities and to make this happen we will need financial support from international donors” said Dr. Kalantari.

He concluded his remarks by stating: “Environmental challenges do not respect borders and when one country is facing environmental challenges, sooner or later its neighbouring countries will also be affected. Therefore, to overcome these obstacles we need to put our differences aside and work together towards a healthy environment”.

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