Iran Heritage Foundation (IHF) in partnership with the Persian Wildlife Foundation (PWF) and in association with the London Middle East Institute (SOAS), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Soudavar Memorial Foundation (SMF), I B Tauris Publishers and thePersian Wildlife Heritage Foundation convened a pioneering international symposium on the challenges facing Iran's natural heritage in London on the 18th and 19th of January 2014. The purpose of the Symposium was to bring public attention to this matter and suggest measures which could spark a measurable positive change.
The first day of the conference, open to the public at large, was held at the Royal Geographic Society and opened with messages from the convenors' representatives, Dr John Curtis (IHF), Fatemeh Soudavar(SMF) and Morad Tahbaz (PWF). Eskandar Firouz, the founder of Iran's Department of Environment (DoE) in the 1960's, delivered an inspiring video recorded message and observed that the renewed interest in Iran's environment is a beacon of hope for future generations.
The opening remarks were followed by a keynote speech by Gary Lewis, the UN Resident Coordinator for Iran and expert presentations by Dr Kaveh Madani, Dr Vahid Hosseini, Dr Taghi Farvar, Dr Stephane Ostrowski and Mrs Laleh Daraie, all active, or residing, in Iran.
In a passionate keynote speech Gary Lewis suggested that Iran's most fundamental environmental challenge of this century is its depleting water resources. Per capita water resources have dropped from 7,000 cubic meters in 1956 to 1,900 cubic meters in 2014. With the population growing to 90 million by 2025 Iran would need access to 30 billion cubic meters of extra water, an impossible objective at the current rates of consumption and depletion. "The water crisis is the biggest challenge to Iran's human security."
Dr Kaveh Madani, of Imperial College took up from Gary Lewis' theme of water scarcity and provided a concise picture of the causes of Iran's water crisis. Some 90% of Iran's water is being used in agriculture, an industry which is heavily subsidised and is allowed to use water as a "free resource." Dam building has been the centre-piece of Iran's water policy for decades. The policy has neglected the social and environmental impact of interfering with water systems and caused serious damage to sustainability of supplies. "A holistic approach to water management, backed by pricing water as a precious resource, is the key to addressing Iran's water crisis."
Dr Vahid Hosseini, of Sharif University of Technology provided a description of the crisis in air pollution in Tehran. The biggest threat to the health of the citizens of Tehran arises from emissions produced by combustion of fossil fuels in vehicles and plants. During the first nine months of the current Iranian year the citizens of the City of Tehran have suffered from 100 days of dangerous or highly elevated pollution levels. The core cures of the City's air pollution are a combination of supply of cleaner fuels, replacement of old and polluting vehicles, improved public transport and taxing the use of private cars using the City centre. "Sanctions are an impediment to access equipment, technology and measuring devices that we need to address Tehran's air pollution."
Dr Taghi Farvar's presentation on the traditional role of indigenous communities in managing the scarce resources of water and rangelands was followed by a comprehensive report by Dr Stephane Ostrowski on Iran's flora, fauna and natural habitat and the challenges that climate change and lack of enforcement resources are causing to forests, rangelands, and endangered species. Mrs Laleh Daraiefinished the presentations for the day with a presentation of the success of the UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme in engaging local communities in environmental regeneration programmes in Iran.
Dr Hassan Hakimian, an economist and Director of London Middle East Institute, wrapped up the proceedings of the day by observing that solutions to Iran's environmental crisis require a multidisciplinary set of initiatives. This calls for environmental experts to work hand in hand with social scientists, engineers, preservation experts and economists at the national and international levels.
The second day's working sessions were held at the headquarters of the IHF at Asia House for the purposes of discussing specific measures to address challenges in respect to water and agriculture, air and pollution, forests and woodland, wildlife and habitat and community development.
The symposium concluded with a message that sparking measurable change would require as a first stepawareness at the national and international level of the extent and severity of the crisis andinternational collaboration amongst experts.
For further information and copies of the presentations please contact email@example.com
Iran Heritage Foundation
63 New Cavendish Street
London W1G 7LP
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