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Saving Iranian Wetlands

TEHRAN- 07 May 2013-- Iran Department of Environment (DOE) and UNDP celebrated the start of the second phase of the Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project (CIWP) here in Tehrantoday and signed an addendum to enter the second phase of the project. The event culminated in signing of an addendum by Vice-President Mohammadizadeh and Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator.
The CIWP started in 2005 under a plan to conserve three wetlands (see map). These are Lake Urmia (between East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan and Kurdistan provinces), Lake Shadegan (in Khuzestan Province), and Lake Parishan (in Fars province).

Wetland ecosystems are critical to humans, providing food, fresh water, fuel, medicinal extracts and genetic materials. They regulate climate and help to re-charge the water supply. They help purify water and resist soil erosion. Crucially - in an era of natural disaster hazards - they also help to regulate flood control.

wever, Iran's wetlands are under threat from agriculture and population pressure.

Over the past eight years, the project has served to counteract some of these trends.

It has delivered effective management systems to reduce - and in some cases remove - threats to wetland-protected areas. Such progress has taken place at the national, provincial and local levels.

At the national level, there is now in place a National Wetland Conservation Strategy and an Action Plan as a result of the Project.

At the provincial level and the basin level, there are Integrated Management Plans, implemented in the three demonstration sites.

The project has also engaged local communities in the decision making processes for wetland area management.

The project has help farmers to improve their livelihoods and incomes.One success story has been in Lake Parishan. Here the project introduced local communities to environmental-friendly agriculture.This has helped farmers to reduce water consumption by over 40 per cent. They also significantly reduced fertilizer and pesticides use - and yet - were able to increase some yields by as much as 60 per cent.
During the past 8 years, the project was been successful in building string partnership between the Iranian Department of Environment, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Interior and Jihad Agriculture, as well a number of NGOs, with interactive participation of the local community both in decision makings and implementation.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Mohsen Soleymani, National Project Manager, said that "the achievements of the project would have not been possible if we had only focused on working for the local communities, instead of working with them. And now as the result of this approach, the initiatives are being taken over by the people."

He added that "the project partners have documented all the best practices of the project activities and published more than 60 publications on sustainable management of wetlands."

During the event, the new Wetlands DataBank was also introduced as an online database that includes information about Iranian wetlands, and their geographical and physiographical information.

Mr. Ahmad-Ali Keykhah, Deputy of Natural Resources and Biodiversity of the DOE, also said that "Iran is home to 41 types of wetlands out of the 42 total number of wetlands typology, and that shows the richness and beauty of biodiversity in our country".

In his remarks, Mr. Lewis warned that "as climate change accelerates - including in Iran - we will see wetlands continue to decline. The number of wetland species will also decrease. Vector-borne and water-borne diseases will increase. And as climate change continues to produce adverse effects - such as the rise in sea level, coral bleaching, and changes in the temperature of water bodies - all of this will all have a negative impact on our wetlands. And we will be able to draw less and less from them."

Mr. Lewis noted that the project extension will do the following things:

  • Continue to support wetlands management plans for the current 3 demonstration sites Lake Urumiyeh, Lake Parishan and Shadegan wetlands.
  • It will repeat our experience in 8 new wetland sites - which are still to be decided.
  • It will help devise laws to support wetlands ecosystem management.
  • It will extend the Project's knowledge and lessons learnt with the entire region of South and Central Asia.

Upon the success of the first phase, an addendum to start the second phase was signed today by Mr. Mohammadizadeh, Head of DOE, and Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran.

According to the addendum, eight more Iranian wetlands - to be decided- will be covered in the second phase of the project.

Mr. Mohammadizadeh, Head of DOE, in his speech, pointed out that "undoubtedly, wetlands are one of the most important habitats" adding that "more than 1.5 million Ha of Iran's lands are registered in the Ramsar Convention, and Iran has a considerable and important role in the convention, being the place where it was signed."

"Now in Iran there are 100 wetlands in need of serious attention and almost 1000 potential wetland areas are recognized in Iran, out of which we have succeeded to conserve 3, and will attempt to save 8 more. We must know that we have a difficult mission." Mr. Mohammadizadeh added, pointing out the challenges of the conservation of wetlands.

Mr. Mohammadzadeh and Mr. Lewis met earlier, before the event. They both agreed that the project has the potential to be replicated by other countries and to be up-scaled at regional level.

A recent wetlands project management workshop organized in Iran - hosted 12 other wetlands projects from 15 countries in our neighborhood.

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"The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment estimates that wetlands provide all of humanity with services worth the equivalent of 15 trillion US dollars."

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