Challenges to and from the Environment in Iran

18 Jan 2014

  

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY

I am honoured to have been invited to speak today at the Royal Geographical Society.  I count among those who inspired me as a child, some of the very individuals who are deeply connected to this historic institution – men like Darwin – Burton – Speke – Livingstone – Scott.

And perhaps one more.  An explorer who still serves as a role model for me – now an adult – in what it means to serve as a leader.  A man who understood achievement not so much in terms of the “what”, but in terms of the “how” – a man named Ernest Shackleton.

Now from what I understand, in today’s world, the purpose of the RGS remains pretty much the same as when it was first founded: namely the ‘advancement of geographical science’.  This is important – because the political will to act upon the evidence yielded by science may well be what ultimately saves our species.

NOT AN EXPERT IN CLIMATE SCIENCE

  • Although my remarks this morning will focus on the environment, let me confess – right at the outset – that I am by no means an expert in any aspect of climate science – or the environment. 
  • I am merely a generalist who has travelled – for many years – in many lands. 
  • Perhaps my sole claim to any authenticity on today’s subject comes from having spent half of my life – since joining the United Nations in 1987 – trying to promote what I have retrospectively come to recognize as “human security”.
  • During those years, I worked – in some modest way – to protect people from slavery to chemicals (in the form drug addiction) and slavery to other people (in the form of human trafficking).
  • But it has been only in recent years – and then, too, largely as a result of an unrepentant intellectual assault by our three daughters – that I have come to recognize the clear and present danger posed by a warming planet – and the doom that will come of this.
  • Then, almost one year ago, I was appointed to serve as the UN Resident Coordinator in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • To that job I brought my own by-then-well-established conviction that anthropogenic climate change represents the gravest human security threat that our species has yet faced in its 150,000 years’ living on this planet.
  • For we are the first humans ever to breathe air with 400 Parts Per Million of carbon dioxide.

VARIED AUDIENCE

  • So, I start by bringing you greetings from Iran.
  • I add my voice to those of earlier – and very distinguished – speakers in welcoming you this Saturday morning to such an important event.
  • My understanding of the profile of our audience is that we have a number of highly specialized experts among us. 
  • But we also have a number of generalists, like me. 
  • We have many who know Iran intimately.
  • And we have many who have come here to get to know this country of immense civilization just a little bit better – and to ponder on the environmental threats it now faces.
  • For this reason, I have tried to develop my ideas in a way that will hopefully resonate with all in some way.

STRUCTURE OF SPEECH

  • My address today will be divided into two parts.
  • First, I will share with you an overview of what I believe “human security” – really ought to mean in the 21st century.
  • Then, I will shift focus to my new home – the land of Iran.  I will speak in broadbrush terms – knowing that more experienced and more competent voices will follow.
  • I will draw attention to what I see as the challenges coming to – and from – the environment. 
  • I will then lay out – for your attention – a wide net in examining 5 specific challenges – all of which are interconnected. 
  • For each of them I will make some suggestions which I believe Iran can implement. 
  • And for each of them I will also suggest what I hope an insightful and opportunity-oriented international community can support.

PART 1: ENVIRONMENT AS A KEY ELEMENT IN HUMAN SECURITY

So, let me begin with a simple example of what I believe to be a real human security challenge for the coming decades.

Here is a map of Iran – and I am zooming into the eastern part.  The border between Iran and Afghanistan.  An area called the Hamouns.  This part of Iran is fed largely by water from the Helmand River which rises to the east in Afghanistan.  The flow ends in Iran’s Sistan Basin. 

This region has a history.  It is the legendary birthplace of the iconic Persian hero Rostam.  It was once Iran’s grain-basket.  And when – during the past century and a half – water was scarce – there were tensions. 

Today, the area is again under pressure because of a lack of water.

Two main causes.  Less water is coming in from upstream in Afghanistan’s Helmand and Kandahar provinces – places I worked many years ago as a young drug control officer.  The life-giving Helmand River has been dammed and – all along its Afghan length – its water is being heavily used for irrigation.[1] 

But there is a second cause.  And that is the way in which water is managed on the Iranian side of the border.  I was in the Hamouns last week and was informed that much of the water entering Iran is currently being diverted into the Chahnimeh reservoir system which is then used for drinking water and agriculture.  While this may benefit tens of thousands, this has also deprived the Hamoun dwellers of their lifeblood.

Here is what the region looked like in 1997.

And here are some photos I took last week. 

The result of this environmental crisis has – over the past decade –seen swathes of villages being abandoned.  Homes are now buried under sands blowing from the dried-out beds of the Hamouns.  Winds howl around the creaking jetties – the empty fish markets – and the broken boats strewn everywhere.

But the problem does not only affect Iran.

  • Here is a satellite photo of the micro-dust storms originating in the Hamouns.
  • Let’s zoom in on a more intense storm.
  • And this is what it looks like a ground level.
  •  Water security. 
  • Environment security. 
  • Human security. 

All of them are linked.

UNDERSTANDING HUMAN SECURITY

So, let me share with you my understanding of what “human security” means.  And let me suggest to you that this is what policymakers should now be striving for in today’s world.

Human security is a term first popularized by the United Nations Development Programme in 1994.[2]  It takes the traditional concept of “national security” and shifts it away from its exclusive focus on the state.  It seeks to ensure the security of people – not just of states.

In what I believe should become an outdated way of thinking about security, emphasis has traditionally been placed on national military power.

But in this century – a century which may make or break our environment – we are beset by what former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, used to call “Problems Without Passports” – problems for which “national security” approaches – offer only partial solutions.  Sometimes they offer no solution at all.

The concept of “human security” speaks to the hugely destabilizing impact of the grinding, relentless poverty of the so-called “Bottom Billion” – hunger – famine – food insecurity – deadly infectious diseases[3] – poor sanitation – natural disasters[4] – and the impact of climate change, in terms of water shortages and expanding desertification. 

These threats are the ones which can prompt massive movements of populations – potentially millions of climate refugees – fleeing these afflictions.  Such movements can, in turn, prompt desperation, lawlessness, crime, inter-ethnic conflict – and the inter-sectarian conflict – which sometimes leads to what we call terrorism.

So when people ask me about the real human security challenges we face, I lose no time in focusing my gaze on the future.  The next decade.  The next generation.  The next century.  If, quite frankly, human civilization – not human beings – but human civilization – if it survives that long.

True “security” – human security – must focus on people.  In addition to political and economic considerations, it must focus on food, health, community, on the person – and on the environment.

PART 2: CHALLENGES TO AND FROM THE ENVIRONMENT IN IRAN

And as we continue to inflict damage on our environment – including in Iran – so must we face the immense backlash from that very same environment in return. 

Iran is not alone in being in this situation.  And it is certainly not in the frontline among those countries which need to atone for damage done to this planet.

  • But, said simply: Iran will face a hotter – drier – future. 
  • The current stewardship – by the Iranian people – of their national patrimony is unsustainable. 
  • Iran – like many countries rich in natural resources – has used a development approach which has overtaxed its non-renewable resources – and under-invested in its renewable ones. 
  • Put simply: “The Environment” can no longer be just another item on the national agenda.

So, let me start with some good news.  Some of you may already know that Iran is a country with a specific article – embedded in its constitution – which is dedicated to environmental conservation.  Here it is – Article 50.

“The preservation of the environment, in which the present as well as the future generations have a right to a flourishing social existence, is regarded as a public duty in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Economic and other activities that involve pollution of the environment or cause irreparable damage to it are therefore forbidden.”

  • Many of the solutions I would propose today – Inclusive Green Growth – Public Expenditure Reviews – Eco-planning – these ought to be easy to implement, based on such a constitutional provision.
  • But there is also a tendency for outsiders to see Iran as a somewhat monolithic and centralized system.
  • My own assignment in Iran – over the past 10 months – leads me to conclude that the situation is more layered – more complex.
  • So, simplistic as it might sound, what I believe is called for – at this time – is bold leadership from the top.
  • And we are beginning to see this.
  • his is the point where I need to pause and say – quite sincerely – how pleased I am to be reading and hearing a number of outspoken statements – coming from the new Government in Iran – on the need to protect the environment.  

o   First example – President Rouhani has publicly criticized the destruction which has befallen Lake Uromiyeh.  "If the lake dries up,” he said recently, “this kind of threat will not be comparable to any other threat.”  
He then added: “millions of citizens will be forced to migrate from the surrounding areas.”  To help fix the problem he has established a High Water Council to find solutions.  He has chaired four of these sessions personally.

o   Second example – Energy Minister, Hamid Chitchian,[5] has publicly criticized the overuse of water flowing into the lake in recent years.  He calls is “a current tragedy”.

o   Third example – Khanume Ebtekar, Vice-President in charge of Environment – when I told her about my speech today – asked me to tell the audience that the Government wants to hear the voice of civil society and is asking for your help – from people inside and outside of Iran – to come with solutions.[6] 

o   Fourth example – at a time when leadership in Iran is increasingly using social media: On 5 December, President Rouhani shared the following tweet: “Worried abt public health.  Session set up to deal w/ air pollution.  Reaching out to innovators & NGOs for solutions based on new technology.”

  • The UN is doing a lot of work with Department of Environment – the Forest, Rangelands and Watershed Organization – the Ministry of Energy and the Department of Agriculture Jihad.  We expect this momentum to continue – and increase.
  • We have a long road ahead.  But I believe that we are now – quite literally – operating in a “positive environment”. 
  • In this context, the UN is – and always must be – about engagement.  Never disengagement.  And Iran can count on us.

But in order to fix problems, we first have to identify them. 

So, what now follows, is my understanding of the 5 main environmental threats we face in Iran and a few general ideas on how to respond to them.

1. WATER

First – and foremost – is water. 

Iran is classified as an arid or semi-arid country.[7]  Over one-quarter of all land in Iran is covered by its two unyielding deserts.  Most climate change models predict that – in future – dry areas will get even drier.  This includes Iran where, in fact, two opposing trends are at play.

The first is water supply.[8] 

Take a look at these two climate projections by LARS-WG[9] for the period 2010-2039 in comparison with the baseline period 1976-2005. 

Here is rainfall. 

Notice how a dramatic decline in rainfall (the large dark brown area to the west of the Zagros) will hit Iran’s breadbasket.

Here is temperature.

Climate change will bring ever-drier weather to Iran.  And it will also bring hotter weather which will increase evapo-transpiration.

Result: the water supply will decline.  We already know, for example, that annual per capita water availability has fallen from a high of 7,000 cubic metres in 1956.  Today it stands at 1,900 cubic metres.  By the year 2020, it will drop to 1,300 cubic metres.[10]

So there you have the alarming trend for water stress.

The other trend is water demand

That trend is driving inexorably in the opposite direction.  On current growth trends, by the year 2025, Iran’s population is projected to reach 90 million.  At this level, we will need an additional 30 BCM of water per year to meet our growing demand. 

This is a startling drama.  People need water to drink – and to produce food – and to keep industries running.

I was recently in Mashhad – a city of immense importance for the spiritual and cultural composure of many Iranians.  The water table is declining by over 1 metre per year.  “Our community – and our culture – is under threat” Mashhadis kept telling me.  There are 3 sources of water to that city of 3 million people – but which hosts 20 million pilgrims every year (more even than Mecca itself).  Kashafrud surface water.  Kashafrud Basin groundwater.  And the Doosti Dam which is fed by Harirud.  All three are declining.  Since March 2013, there has reportedly not been a single drop of water into Doosti Dam from the Harirud due to extensive diversion upstream in Afghanistan.

I hear the same story when I speak to farmers in Shiraz.  They tell of a dramatically-declining water table – “we have to drill deeper” – they say – “our crop yields are falling”

When I travelled to Isfahan 16 years ago, the water running under the see-o-say pol looked like this. 

But perhaps the most emblematic example of water concerns is what is happening to Lake Uromiyeh in the northwest of Iran.

I recently visited Lake Orumiyeh, once the world’s largest lake.  Before travelling, I consulted satellite images of the lake.  Here they are.  They showed me that Lake Uromiyeh had shrunk in surface area by two-thirds since 1997.  Two-thirds.

Worse was to come.  For when I actually visited the lake – on the ground – I was utterly devastated by what I saw.  It was visually apocalyptic.  And it is man-made.

I saw a dry, empty, white salt-bed.  I heard wind howling.  I saw it blowing the salt all around what – up until a few years ago – had been a beautiful salt-lake.  I saw it dumping that salty air on the agricultural lands beyond the lake, all around the edges. There is also salt water intrusion in the agricultural lands around the lake.

So the agriculture of Uromiyeh is under threat. 

  • With agriculture under threat, livelihoods come under threat. 
  • When people cannot sustain themselves economically they move – as they have done by migrating away – in their hundreds of thousands, for example – from the already-dried-out Aral Sea in Central Asia. 
  • And they move to places where other people live. 
  • This causes tension.  It causes disputes.  It sometimes results in violence. 

Water is our biggest resource constraint in Iran.  I would also argue that it is our greatest long-term risk.  For – once some of those aquifers become un-usable – many parts of the country might indeed become uninhabitable.  And the repercussions will be devastating.

But there are solutions for Uromiyeh.  And these can show us the way forward for many of Iran’s other water problems.[11]

So, what to do?

Many experts I have spoken to say that there needs to be a complete rethink of Iran’s water management approach.  They suggest four priorities:

o   First – participation:  We must involve all interest groups in planning resource allocations.  This includes for Lake Uromiyeh and the Hamouns.

o   Second – pricing: We must stop treating water as an open resource.  Because agriculture is the sector that consumes[12] – and wastes – the most water, we need to price our water better.  One type of pricing system that is proposed by experts is two-tier pricing.  Here water would be priced differently depending on whether it is for subsistence use or for commercial use.

o   Third – protection: We need to better conserve and protect both our ground water and our surface water.  We must first stop the current level of wastage and transpiration – as well as the illegal harvesting of water.  This means better enforcement of those laws and policies that are already in place.

o   Fourth – water efficiency:  We must apply better technology.  And we must recycle water.  The country’s increased agricultural production should come from higher per-hectare productivity – not expanded irrigation.[13]

  • During the course of today and tomorrow, various speakers will share their ideas in detail on how this can be done.
  • Finally – on water – and for what it is worth – regarding the Hamouns of which I spoke earlier – the science tells us that much of the water which enters Iran can still be allowed to flow naturally into the Hamouns, re-charging them and re-energizing their communities while still keeping enough in the reservoirs.  The problem can be solved.

2. LAND DEGRADATION

The second threat is land degradation.  This comes from two sources: desertification and deforestation.

There was a recent statement by Dr. Issa Kalantari[14], currently Special Adviser to the President on Lake Uromiyeh.  He asked the question: “Is Iran becoming uninhabitable?”  This is a powerful – and hugely controversial – question.  But let’s look at the evidence.  Yes, it is true that a substantial area of Iran has always been covered by deserts.  But at the present moment, it is the rate of the spread of desertification that is alarming. 

Yes, it is true that desertification is being driven by climate change trends.  But it is also being driven by population pressure – by water over-use – and by overgrazing.  For example, Iran’s topsoil is being lost at a rate 20 times faster than it is being formed.

So, based on all of this, Dr. Kalantari’s question doesn’t really seem like an overstatement after all.

The really bad news is that the land is becoming less productive at the very time when Iran needs to increase its production to ensure the food for its large and growing population.

So again – the question – what is to be done? 

I have spoken with many who suggest the following combination of solutions:

  • We need to re-afforest more.
  • We need to expand integrated natural resource management – and plan for ecological sustainability.
  • We need stricter policies and laws to protect land and water resources – and we need to better enforce those policies and laws that are already in place.

Do this, they say, and we will contribute to ensure long-term sustainability of our land.  

OK. 

But we must be aware of the ramifications.  Take the issue of overgrazing. 

  • If we reduce the number of livestock, that is one obvious way to reduce grazing pressures on rangelands.
  • However, livestock rearing is a source of livelihood for farmers – for some rural residents, it is their only source. 
  • Persuading farmers – who are already poor – to cut down the size of their herds will seriously hurt them (and, if enforced, will probably increase the rate of urban migration as more people move to cities to look for jobs). 
  • So we need sustainable alternative livelihood opportunities for farmers to allow them to reduce the size of their herds without damaging their socio-economic status. 

3. ENERGY

Third, energy.

The human security of our planet – and of the Middle East – and of Iran – will ultimately come to rely – in significant measure – on human beings’ ability to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  For this reason, Iran must play its own part in reducing its own emissions.

Currently, Iran’s energy intensity and per capita CO2 emission levels are among the highest in the world.

This has to do with Iran’s growing population – its rightful development aspirations – and its abundant natural gas and oil reserves.  But it also has to do with fuel price subsidies that have set the price of energy far too low.  These subsidies do have important social goals.  And it is fitting to state here that over the past three decades, the Iranian government has done a formidable job in promoting human development – things like life expectancy, education, disposable income.  Cheap energy and electrification have contributed massively to this human development.[15]

But the Government itself has recognized that the subsidies[16] – in their current form – encourage waste.  They promote inefficiency.  And they leave a huge carbon footprint. 

Said simply, Iran’s energy sector is now overly reliant on fossil fuels.  So, in order to decarbonize its economy: 

  • Iran should improve energy efficiency in residential, industrial, transport and urban systems.  This is a greenhouse gas mitigation option.  And we will also get economic benefits if we use energy more efficiently.  Reduced gas flaring would be another example of low-hanging fruit. 
  • Iran should increase the share of solar, wind and geothermal in its energy mix.  For instance, due to the high levels of sunlight, it has been estimated that, in theory, just 100 square kilometers of Iran’s surface area – if harnessed for solar power – could generate enough energy to supply the country’s entire energy needs.[17]
  • But Iran also needs greater private sector involvement in the power sector, especially in renewable energy. 
  • It needs to plan and manage better to significantly reduce transmission and distribution losses.
  • And it needs to encourage investment in new technology.
  • This audience is certainly aware of how deeply rooted in Iranian society is the culture of science.  Iran has placed great emphasis on the development of science and technology through its Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development.  Indeed, this is extremely high compared with its neighbours.  However, more is needed – particularly on the transfer of science and technology through South-South cooperation.  This is something the United Nations can help with.

4. AIR POLLUTION

The fourth problem – urban air pollution. 

Of all of Iran’s environmental issues, the effect of air pollution on the quality of life is probably the most immediate – and tangible – and visible – threat. 

Statistics tell us that Iran’s cities are among the most polluted in the world.  Most of us know about the situation in Tehran.  But the World Health Organization assesses that three of Iran’s cities – Ahvaz, Kermanshah and Sanandaj – are in even worse shape.  The World Health Organization says they are among the Top-10 of the worlds’ worst-polluted cities.  The Government itself is adding to this list Arak and Isfahan.[18]

Our own capital, Tehran, has become so polluted that just a few weeks ago[19], the Majlis voted to consider a proposal to move the capital elsewhere – somewhere less polluted – less crowded – less earthquake-prone. 

Added to this – during the past seven years or so – we have started to face a new and immediate environmental threat from beyond Iran’s borders to the west.  I speak of micro-dust storms – something not well known outside the region.  These storms are caused by small dust particles – mainly from a drying-out Iraq – being blown into Iran.  Here is a picture of the exact same location in Ahvaz – with and without the micro-dust storms.

These storms:

  1. damage Iran’s economy – in particular its agriculture (e.g., honey production) and transport
  2. undermine Iran’s public health (with impact stretching to regular school closures)
  3. threaten Iran’s ecosystem – particularly the oak forests in the Zagros Mountain range
  4. and strain relations with Iran’s western neighbours.

Solutions to these air pollution problems must include four things: (1) energy pricing; (2) dealing with vehicle exhaust emissions; (3) policy enforcement and (4) regional cooperation on micro-dust storms.

Finally, a word on the impact of sanctions on air pollution.  The sanctions on fuel imports to Iran have unfortunately forced the country to rely on its own production of petrol – of a lower grade – and therefore more polluting, than in many other countries.[20]  In the final analysis, we need to improve the quality of the fuel we use – especially petrol.  And we look forward to the outcome of the positive spirit we see in Geneva and hope for a time when the technology transfer required to also develop renewables will be more easily available.

5. BIODIVERSITY LOSS

Lastly, biodiversity loss and the dramatic issue of species decline in Iran. 

During this Symposium, other, more knowledgeable voices will speak of the rich flora and fauna that we had in Iran.[21]  They will enumerate what we have lost.  And what now needs preserving and protecting – and expanding.

My role is simply to state the obvious. 

  • That conservation has often been at odds with economically profitable activities. 
  • That this stems from the failure of markets to capture the true value of the goods and services which nature provides.   
  • That in Iran – as in other countries – short-term development gains have often trumped longer term environmental concerns. 
  • And that existing environmental laws are often at loggerheads with construction or mining projects. 

Indeed, the voice of the Department of Environment is sometimes drowned out when such conflicts of interest arise.[22]

So we must find solutions that promote financially-sustainable models for species protection. 

  • We need to involve local communities in their protection – and integrate conservation into daily life. 
  • We need to promote alternative livelihoods for rural communities – like ecotourism – to reduce unsustainable over-reliance on natural resource harvesting. 
  • And we need to better monitor what is happening.  We need to know how much damage we are doing.  For this is the first step in setting things right.

CONCLUSION

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Before concluding, I would like to say special word of thanks to the Iran Heritage Foundation and the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation – and other institutional partners – for having the foresight to organize this gathering at a time of immense opportunity for Iranians living outside of Iran.
  • I would like to specifically thank Ms. Maryam Alaghband of the IHF, and the hardworking team of Ms. Alice Piller Roner in London and Ms. Sheyda Ashayeri in Tehran. 
  • I would like to thank Mr. Morad Tabhaz, Chairman of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation – and a giant for conservation in his homeland, who – without really knowing me well – ventured to recruit me to give this speech many months ago.
  • This is a time of immense opportunity for all Iranians to play a positive role.  You can become more involved in finding solutions to environmental challenges in your homeland. 
  • For those already engaged, this is important work that you are doing – and I salute you.

 […]

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Returning to my original point, the only way we will counter these threats is if we start thinking in “human security” terms.

A few months ago, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change – the IPCC – presented its 5th Assessment Report. 

  • The IPCC now says it is 95% certain of negative human influence on the climate system. 
  • I know we are almost at the end of my speech – and you are perhaps a little weary. 
  • But let me repeat for emphasis.
  • The IPCC now says it is 95% certain of – negativehumaninfluence – on the climate system. 
  • It’s us – we’re doing it.

The conclusion? 

We need to reduce greenhouse gases if we are to have a hope of limiting runaway climate change.  We must reduce greenhouse gases if we are to transform our Millennium Development Goals into Sustainable Development Goals.

For me, the evidence is in.  Across the planet the politics now needs to catch up.  We need to find a way to halt the warming of our planet without compromising the economic growth on which we all depend.  I have to believe that this can be done.  We all have to believe that this can be done.

Today, in this august hall, I add my voice to those thousands of others calling for an elevation of the concept of environmental security – and the priorities we must set to help de-carbonize the global economy.

My focus has been on Iran.  I have offered some suggestions.  And I am at your disposal to discuss.

We simply have to find a way to fix the deadly human security threats of the future – especially those posed by the environment.  We must turn our greatest collective challenge into an opportunity to build a sustainable future.

For we have no other planet to call home. 

Thank you all for coming. 


[1]  Through 750 km of irrigation canals.

[2]  See UNDP, Human Development Report – 1994.  UNDP’s strategic plan, approved by the Member States, explicitly embraces Human Security as set out in General Assembly resolution 66/290 on the ‘Follow-up to paragraph 143 on human security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome,’ adopted on 25 October 2012.  The agreed language is that “All areas of work proposed in this Strategic Plan will help build resilience (…) These are elements that help build bridges between humanitarian, peace-building and longer-term development efforts, to reduce risks, prevent crises, avert major development setbacks and promote human security.”  The General Assembly Resolution, in turn, defines human security as an approach to “assist Member States in identifying and addressing widespread and cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people.”

[3]  As heat and humidity make it easier for pathogens to survive and thrive.

[4]  Iran’s susceptibility to natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes) is dramatic.  Iran is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.  Earthquakes alone accounted for more than half of all of Iran’s natural disasters between 1986 and 2007.  These earthquakes were responsible for 95 percent of recorded mortality and 73 percent of damage to buildings among all disaster events.  Climatic events, floods, drought and sandstorms also took their toll.

[5]  Iran’s energy minister, Hamid Chitchian, has underlined the Government’s determination to save the endangered Lake Uromiyeh in northwest of the country, which has lost more than 60% of its surface in recent years.  He stated that Iran needs 10-15 years to return the Lake Uromiyeh to its previous condition.  The minister blamed an overuse of waters flowing into the lake in recent years as the most important reason for the current situation, saying previously only 150,000 hectares of land around the lake were under cultivation but now it had increased to 480,000 hectares.  The addition of 330,000 hectares of land to previous lands under cultivation need 3.1 billion cubic meters of water and this portion of water can revive the lake.

[6]  See also: http://www.iran-daily.com/Newspaper/Page/4697/7.

[7]  Iran receives an average of less than 250 mm of precipitation annually which is about one-third of the global average.

[8]  Iran’s population during the Qajjar period was 10 million.  Today is it 75 million approximately.  But during the intervening period Iran’s available water resources have not increased.

[9]  LARS-WG is Long Ashton Research Station-Weather Generator.  It is a stochastic weather generator developed by Dr. Mikhail Semenov of Rothamsted Research, UK.  A stochastic weather generator is a statistical model which is able to simulate daily weather data based on the observed statistical characteristics of weather at a single site.  This type of statistical model can:  (1) Generate long time series of weather data (typically precipitation, maximum and minimum temperature and solar radiation) suitable for the assessment of agricultural and hydrological risk; (2) Provide a means for simulating weather data at locations where no observations have been made, or where the observational record is very short; and (3) Serve as a computationally-inexpensive tool which can produce high temporal resolution climate change scenario data.  This particular model is able to incorporate changes in climate variability as well as changes in mean climate.  Source: Environment Canada: http://www.cccsn.ec.gc.ca/?page=lars-wg.  The Source of this analysis is Iran’s Second National Communication to the UNFCCC. The analysis has been done by the joint Iran-UN project using the LARS-WG model.

[10]  Ministry of Energy (2012).

[11]  There is another side to this: water quality.  Industrial waste water, urban and rural sewage, agricultural runoffs are main sources of water pollution in Iran, threatening already scarce water resources.  There is evidence of where available freshwater is simply not available because of bad quality.

[12]  Approximately 85% of Iran’s water.

[13]  In agriculture, we must have measures to conserve water while sustainably expanding irrigation coverage. 

[14]  See: http://iranpulse.al-monitor.com/index.php/2013/07/2353/iran-becoming-uninhabitable-says-former-agriculture-minister/

[15]   For example 100% of urban households and 92% of rural households had electricity by 2003.  Source: MOE 2003, Balance of Energy. 

[16]  The 2010 Subsidy Reform Plan seems to have been effective in reducing consumption of petroleum products, but the outcomes of the subsidy reforms is a matter of heated debate.  In 2011, the MOE reported that the reforms significantly decreased consumption of petroleum products and electricity.  Prior to reform, consumption of energy carriers grew annually at an average rate of 10%.  After reforms, fuel oil consumption decreased by 36.4%, petrol by 5.6%, diesel by 9.8%, kerosene by 2.9%, electricity by 1.7%, LPG by 10.6%.  The Subsidy Reform Plan was suspended in 2012 due to high inflation and devaluation of the rial brought on by another round of sanctions in January 2012.

[17]  Total annual electricity consumption in 2012 = 184,959,331 MWh (Reference: Ministry of Energy, Tavanir, http://wamp.tavanir.org.ir/compStat/general/index.php?id=0&frm=2&year=1391#f2).  Potential solar energy per square metre which can be harvested per day = 4.5 – 5.5 KWh (on average 5 KWh).  So, the daily electricity production of 100 Km2 would be 500,000 MWh per day and the annual production would be 182,500,000 MWh.

[18]  Conversations with Government officials in February 2014.

[19]  24 December 2013.

[20]  The Director of Tehran’s Air Quality Control has warned that, “based on Euro 4 standard, the amount of carcinogens in petrol should be less than 1% but the level of our domestically-produced petrol is between 2-3%”.  Source: https://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/tehran-air-pollution-leaves-4460-dead-in-a-year-health-official/.

[21]  Iran has 1,130 vertebrate species as well as more that 7,600 plant species.  It is still the very last habitat of big mammals like Asiatic cheetah, Persian Fallow deer, Asiatic wild ass.  Unfortunately the country also has 111 fauna and 165 flora species under different categories of the IUCN Red list.  Even more sadly two big cats (the Persian lion and Caspian (Mazandaran) tiger went extinct five to six decades ago.

[22]  Kolahi et al (2012) Challenges to the future development of Iran’s protected area system. Environmental Management 50, 750-765.

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Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran